Categories: AnalysisCultureOpinionPolitics

Ideas So Great They are Above Questioning

My time as a university student has taught me many things: how to write, how to research, and what I am allowed to discuss or question on campus without academic or social penalty.

This has led me to a very simple question: If the Progressive Liberal ideas that are pushed so hard on many university campuses are so great, why do their proponents react so badly to the expression of other viewpoints? One would assume that “good” ideas would naturally vindicate themselves in the face of “bad” ones.

This was the assumption of Lindsay Shepherd, the Master’s student and Teaching Assistant from Wilfred Laurier University, who twice found herself on the wrong side of Progressive ideology after showing a Jordan Peterson video to her class and after trying to host controversial anti-immigration speaker Faith Goldy as part of her club’s “Unpopular Opinions Speaker Series.”

As she says in an opinion piece published by Maclean’s on March 22: “Originally, this event was supposed to be a debate about immigration in Canada–but every professor I invited to debate Goldy declined.

One must wonder: if her arguments are so intellectually void and unreasonable, as critics claim, why was no one willing to take on her supposed bunk arguments about white identity? Wouldn’t it be an easy win?”

It certainly would have been an easy win for a seasoned academic, or even a clever pundit, yet not one decided to show up.

Instead, would-be attendees of the event were harassed by demonstrators who subsequently pulled the fire alarm to stop Goldy from speaking.

This hardly reflects well on demonstrators, which included some professors from Wilfred Laurier University. Stifling a discussion does not vindicate a viewpoint, nor does it debunk an opposing one. One would assume at the very least the educated elite of our society – professors and academics – would understand that.

Yet, there they were, side by side with radical demonstrators who decided to express the “validity” of their opinion and “absurdity” of Goldy’s opinion by name calling and terrorizing Ms. Shepherd. The term “Nazi,” one of the words the demonstrators decided to employ from their vocabulary, ironically applies to their actions better than Shepherd’s – we must not forget the work of the Waffen-SS in violently cracking down on dissenters in Nazi Germany before and during the Second World War.

Now, I am not about to defend the opinions of Ms. Goldy, but I am also appalled by the actions of these demonstrators. Like Shepherd, I firmly believe that the best ideas will always win out in a society that allows their free exchange; even the most ridiculous opinions should be entertained in order that they may be properly and publicly debunked. After all, “bad” opinions are like infections; if they are just ignored they will fester, spread, and eventually become septic.

What these demonstrators fail to understand is that their actions are not winning anyone to their cause; if anything, they are pushing people away from it – perhaps even toward the very opinion, they are protesting.

In an age of information, disinformation, and misinformation enabled by humanity’s increased connectivity, what we need is more dialogue not less. We must continue the rational exchange of ideas so that we may continue to find the best ones, to improve both as individuals and as communities.

This begins by affirming that no idea is above questioning. Failing to do this, especially on university campuses, the traditional vanguard of intellectual freedom and debate, will not lead to some utopia of cooperation and peace, but it will lead us towards greater polarization and greater societal conflict.

As sociologist Robert Merton’s strain theory argues, those who cannot find a place in the institution or culture, or are not allowed one, will make their own somewhere else – a reality that almost always has adverse consequences for society as a whole. After all, there is nothing more dangerous than when a society devolves into close-minded sectarianism, something we are already well on our way to doing.

Roland Weisbrot

Roland Weisbrot is a fourth-year history major at Ambrose University in Calgary, Alberta. He currently serves as both Regional Director of the Prairies for Students For Liberty Canada and President of Students For Liberty Ambrose. In his spare time, he blogs about his musings on the intersection of history, politics, faith, and philosophy.

Comments

  • Great article ... unfortunately, it's only good to those that understand it, there are far more that can't wrap their heads around that, free speech and ideas are a two way street ... so much for "higher learning".

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