New Free Speech Mandate And Why it Matters

 

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Watch: Students react to most outrageous cases of campus censorship

Sheridan College, which has campuses in Brampton, Mississauga and Oakville, has announced that as of Jan 1, 2019 they will be adopting a new free speech policy.

Although faculty, students and staff are free to criticize, contest and condemn the views expressed on campus, they may not obstruct, disrupt, or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loath, – Sheridan college’s statement of principles.

The free speech policy consists of five core elements:

— A definition of freedom of speech

— A commitment to allow open discussion and free inquiry.

— A statement that it is not the college’s role to shield members of the college community from ideas they disagree with.

— A statement that while members of the college community are free to contest the views of others, they must also respect the rights of others to express their views.

— An affirmation that speech that violates the law is not allowed.
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This is all after the Ontario provincial government mandated all University and College campuses to adopt strong free speech policies by the new year otherwise they would face funding cuts. This coming after a series of disturbing breaches to free speech on campuses across the country. This demonstrates a real divide in the country since the election of US president Donald Trump. There are those among us who have decided that free speech enables hate speech. And that advocating for free speech is simply apologizing for deplorable speech.
Now, if you’re among those who have been pretty tuned out of the free speech debate over the last few years then this all may seem like just more political rhetoric. If you’re reacting to this like my friend Rob, “Umm, I’m pretty sure that’s because free speech was already protected in Ontario and this is just virtue signalling to the triggered ‘kids these days’ crowd,” then allow me to highlight just some of the things that have been happening and entertain the trickle down effect campus culture has on the rest of our culture.

Watch: TVO, The Agenda with Steve Paikin: Freedom of Expression on Campus

1. Lindsay Shepherd vs Laurier University.

It all started when Lindsay Shepherd, a WLU T.A. who was teaching a grammar class, showed a clip from the TVO show, The Agenda with Steve Paiken. This episode happened to feature Jordan Peterson at the peak of his bill C-16 controversy. The episode was discussing the gender based pronouns. After Shepherd played the clip she was notified by her professor that she was to meet him for a meeting as apparently there had been one or more complaints made against Shepherd. Suspecting she was being hauled in over the video she showed she decided it would be a good idea to record the meeting.
It was a good thing she did because if she hadn’t, no one would believe her outlandish story about her professor accusing her of showing off nazi propaganda. The recording Lindsay leaked revealed her professors accusing her of being irresponsible for exposing the students to the content in a neutral manner. He went on to criticise that it was like neutrally playing something from Hitler or Milo Yiannopoulos. Basically she was being disciplined for not attempting to shape the students opinion. However Lindsay pushed back to say that the role of the University was in fact to challenge students values and perspectives.
Watch: Benjamin A Boyce created a series of video critiques following Laurier
Once the story blew up in the public TVO had the WLU president and vice-chancellor, Deborah MacLatchy, on to discuss the matter. However throughout the, over 14 minute, interview she refused to outright say that Lindsay had done nothing wrong. An independent third party investigation was launched and it found that there had been no complaint made and that the grounds for Ms. Shepherd’s disciplining was baseless.
But that didn’t stop the University from continuing to mistreat Ms. Shepherd. She was reassigned to another professor who was simply vicious with her and was more than happy to create a toxic workplace for Shepherd. Until eventually she had nullified Shepherd’s role as T.A. for the remainder of the year. Harassment of her peers and students went un-mediated as Shepherd first attempted to hold a Q&A with guest speaker Faith Goldy but had the event shut down when students pulled the fire alarm. In a second attempt to host the event with Mrs. Goldy the University itself demanded a security fee of $28,500 before allowing the event to proceed. And then when they were unable to accumulate the funds demanded, they were denied their request to host the event.
Lindsay Shepherd is currently suing Wilfred Laurier for their ongoing mistreatment of her. 
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2. Valerie Flokstra vs University of the Fraser Valley

Watch: Benjamin A Boyce Interviews Valerie Flokstra

Students were told premature births were contributing to increased autism diagnoses. Flokstra questioned whether high abortion rates in Canada could be playing a role, citing studies showing a link between abortion and later premature births.

Asking that made the classroom an unsafe space, the 22-year old was told.

Flokstra covertly recorded the hour-long meeting with Prof. Nancy Norman, in whose class the incident took place, and Prof. Vandy Britton, the head of the teacher education department. Fearing academic reprisal, she waited until after graduation to share the audio. She now works as a teacher at a British Columbia private school.

Flokstra’s ordeal has numerous similarities to what former Wilfrid Laurier University graduate student Lindsay Shepherd experienced last year. In fact, Flokstra credits Shepherd’s ordeal with motivating her to record the meeting in the first place.

Much like with Shepherd, Flokstra’s professors attempt to couch offensive recommendations with an “I’m on your side” attitude, using social justice as a trump card over academic inquiry. Just as Shepherd’s professors compared Jordan Peterson to Adolf Hitler, Flokstra was told discussing abortion is like a UFV KKK club.

It’s this attitude, particularly in the teacher education program, that Flokstra said she wanted to challenge by releasing the audio.

– Andrew Lawton, fellow at the True North Initiative

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3. Men’s Issues Awareness Society student group denied funding at Ryerson U

A male student attempted to create a men’s issues student group but was met with protests and slander as a feminist collective had funding refused from the group and went on a smear campaign to label Kevin Arriola, the student applying for the group, as a misogynist. Despite the fact that about half the group was made up of women. On Oct. 27, 2015, MIAS was informed its application for club status had been rejected. Kevin Arriola took the Ryerson Student Union to court with representation by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms. But the case was dismissed, the judge saying it, “had no merit,” to it.

“It’s the kind of culture and climate that exists around these group… even if it’s not the group itself,” said Alyson Rogers, one of the founders of the Ryerson Feminist Collective. “It’s a gathering area for people who are anti-women, anti-feminist and rape apologists. A lot of the issues that men face comes from the privilege of being men. Patriarchy is oppressive to women but it also deals men a bad hand. Even if half their membership is women… We’re more concerned about the ideology as opposed to the makeup of the membership.”

“We have explicitly said we are not a feminist group, but we are not an anti-feminist group as well,” Arriola said.

Watch: CBC’s Sunday Talk Panel featuring Jonathan Kay on The MIAS group

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4. Rick Mehta vs Acadia University

Watch: Gad Saad interviews Rick Mehta (The Saad Truth_724)

 

Rick Mehta was fired despite his tenured position with the University for critical comments made around the truth and reconciliation commission, feminism, identity politics, immigration and decolonization. He was then only offered a copy of the report that lead to his firing if he would sign off on what he called a “gag order” agreement.

 

5. Danielle Robitaille cancelled event at Laurier over safety concerns

A student group studying criminology sought to host a lecture by Danielle Robitaille, Jean Ghomeshi’s lawyer. But mobs formed opposition and with a lack of time to coordinate a security detail Robitaille cancelled. “Even without uttering a word, one of the main points in my speech has been made: the complaints and the call to cancel my talk rest on a fundamental misunderstanding of the justice system and the nature of the role of defence counsel in the adversarial process,” Robitaille wrote in her response to the student group who invited her.

 

6. Universities allowing Social Justice Mobs to shut down events and lectures

Whether it’s Jordan Peterson hosting a lecture about the value of free speech or Janice Fiamengo questioning the ethics around modern day feminism, Universities intentionally under staff security to these events when they know protests will take place. At Jordan Peterson’s lecture at Queen’s one protestor brought a Garrote and another damaged the stain glass windows of the lecture hall from bashing against the glass. Or in Lindsay Shepherd’s case after a mob pulled a fire alarm, the University prevented the event by demanding a security fee of $28,500.

Watch: SJW Mobs at Queen’s University

Watch: SJW Mobs at McMaster University

 Watch: TVO’s Agenda with Steve Paikin, Free Speech: At what cost

Watch: SJW Mobs at Wilfred Laurier University

 

7. The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms

The Centre for Constitutional Freedoms University rating chart

The Centre for Constitutional Freedoms does a full detailing of data about the state of free speech on 60 Canadian public universities. The Campus Freedom Index grading methodology is found here.  Each university receives four letter grades: one for each of university policies, university practices, student union policies, and student union practices. Using a five-tier letter scale—A, B, C, D and F—the Campus Freedom Index grades universities and student unions on their stated policies (what they say) and their practices (what they do).

Some of their findings which I did not mention here already were:

  • Dalhousie University earns an ‘F’ for its decision to launch an investigation against undergraduate student Masuma Khan, over remarks she made on social media that offended some readers.
  • Saint Paul University earns an ‘F’ for its decision to cancel a planned film screening about abortion.
  • The University of Guelph earns an ‘F’ for refusing to allow a pro-life student group to hold a tabling event about abortion.
  • The University of Victoria earns an ‘F’ for condoning vandalism and disruption of a sanctioned student-organized pro-life event.

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The “trickle down effect” that campus culture has on the rest of society can be observed in some of the latest changes among social media platforms. Twitter has now updated it’s conduct policy to ban hateful conduct such as misgendering, deadnaming or “promoting harm”. Yet it makes a clear distinction between those it deems to be within their “protected category membership” and those that are not. That’s how people like Megan Murphy and Jesse Kelly get banned. Whereas twitter actively permits people like Louis Farrakhan tweet things like, “I’m not an anti-Semite. I’m anti-Termite.” And known terrorist groups like Hamas don’t get their twitter accounts removed. So it’s official. You talk about Bruce Jenner’s work in the olympics and Twitter actually believes you’re worse than terrorists. Actually.

And then there was Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, delivered a speech while accepting the Anti-Defamation League’s first-ever Courage Against Hate award at an event in New York City. He said, “We only have one message for those who seek to push hate, division and violence: You have no place on our platforms. You have no home here.”

“We believe the future should belong to those who use technology to build a better, more inclusive, and more hopeful world,” Cook continued. “I believe the most sacred thing that each of us is given is our judgment, our morality, our own innate desire to separate right from wrong. Choosing to set that responsibility aside in a moment of trial is a sin.” This religious framework was no coincidence.

The ideology of identity politics operates like a doctrine which overrides reason and logic. Tim Cook may be a brilliant man but if he insists on viewing life through the context in which intersectionality provides then it won’t be long before the category of “white supremacist” becomes a blanket term which is used to categorize anyone who disagrees. And when your doctrine persecutes comedians, the gulags are not far away.

We’re already seeing a doubling down on this banning culture where now Patreon has been purging it’s platform of those it considers guilty of hate speech. With the deplatforming of Sargon of Akkad, a gamergate free speech advocate, pro-brexiteer and mere internet troll. He used the “N” word to insult an actual ethno-nationalist, white supremacist in a fight they were having. He called the actual neo nazi the “N” word because to them, there is no greater insult. Like when engaging with another in road rage, you don’t first consider whether or not your critique out the car window is politically correct enough or not.

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Not that I’m making the case that it’s ever ok to use such charged language, I must say, to separate myself from the violation in question. In order to play the game by the crazy’s rules in this upside down world of “words are violence”. But what’s worthy of note is that Sargon did this impulsively on another person’s content which THEY chose to leave in. And this was not something that took place over Patreon. Nor did it directly violate Patreon’s terms and conditions. And he was not given any warning, second chance or opportunity to appeal. Overnight he lost his income which enabled him to commit towards content creation.

And he may be an offensive troll but there is no doubt that he is not a white supremacist. Not to mention that if you search the “N” word on Patreon you find about 9 page results in references to it. So, like any message board or comment enabled media, it’s a very commonly used. So why Sargon? Perhaps he’s just enough of a troll that a cost vs benefit analysis can be experimented with in the lead up to the 2020 American elections. Creators began moving to a competitor site, Subscribe Star, but within less than a week Paypal, the payment processor used by these platforms, refused to service Subscribestar. Coincidence? Or antitrust violation?

Eric Weinstein said that in order to make moves against the IDW they would need to act in the light. And they are indeed making their political motivations very clear by the unjustified nature of their actions. But creators see through the vague explanations and the inconsistencies and are currently working on an alternative platform to rival Google’s attempts to silence all those who refuse to bend a knee to the accepted narrative.

And now with this UN global compact using the terminology “irregular migrant” as opposed to “illegal migrant” will we see a crackdown on independent media over the use of the word “illegal”? Another example on how technical language becomes reshaped into moralized language. Exactly for the purposes of communication. So when legitimate media has questions to hold politicians accountable they now have the ability to skirt disagreeable questions by dehumanizing the person asking the question. Liberals don’t answer to bigots.

That is why we must stand for free speech, in all forms, shapes and sizes from every institution through to every corporation and down to every personal conversation. You may not like all speech you hear, so combat it with better speech. By shutting down and silencing the ability to express oneself freely, the cure will become more harmful than the problem. Speech is no different today than it was 30 years ago. In fact it’s probably a lot better considering average joes like me actually say “N” word. But it’s technology that elevates it and it’s trolls who throw it in our faces, forcing us to look at it. What we have is a technology problem, not a speech problem. We need to stop this madness before someone decides to program this condemnation of hate into the AI that will bring upon the singularity and once it realizes that every human has the capacity in their heart for hate, it decides to end the human experiment. This is not so unbelievable if you’ve been reading the new york times lately.

 

Watch: Benjamin A Boyce edit of Tim Cook’s comments

 

Watch: Jordan Peterson delivers lecture on free speech

 

If we do not believe in freedom of speech for those we despise; we do not believe in it at all.

– Noam Chomsky

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