The price of free speech

Unrest on Campus Over Speaker Who Sees U.S. Role in 9/11

Hamilton College has been courting controversy recently, inviting Ward Churchill to speak at a panel. Yes, his views are problematic and disturbing - similar to those of Amiri Baraka. But does that mean we should ignore these views?


In a free society, people have the right to their misguided opinions. Hamilton is taking the responsible steps of widening the conversation, allowing conflicting opinions to be heard and not cancelling Churchill's appearance. They've even moved it to a larger venue to allow protest and commentary to take place safely. All this despite the Wall Street Journal's op-ed page call for boycotting the $175MM capital campaign Hamilton has just kicked off.

Update: Hamilton caved. So much for standing on principle when $$ is at stake.

Update: The above was written before I learned that Hamilton received several threats, including one from that mentioned bringing a gun to the event. As President Stewart said, "We have done our best to protect what we hold most dear, the right to speak, think and study freely. But there is a higher responsibility that this institution carries, and that is the safety and security of our students, faculty, staff, and the community in which we live. Credible threats of violence have been directed at the College and members of the panel. These threats have been turned over to the police. Based on the information available, I have made the decision to cancel this event in the interest of protecting those at risk."

Churchill's statements aren't doing much to calm the waters, either. His points are good, but very poorly expressed. Still, threatening to not support the College is one thing (although it smacks of censorship) - threatening violence is intolerable. We should all be ashamed that the intolerance these remarks engendered led someone to believe that killing was an appropriate response. Pundits and journalists need to act ethically and stress that violence of any sort is not the way to combat ideas.

Update: Henry, from Crooked Timber mentions The Dragons of Expectation, which sounds similar to Churchill's remarks.

1 comment:

Aravis said...

I couldn't agree with you more.