There was a time when any lunatic under the sun could stand freely in LSU’s Free Speech Alley and spew whatever nonsense came to mind. Students heading to and from class or to the nearest bar would stop to listen for a spell or ignore it altogether.
Occasionally, detractors would show up to challenge the speaker. Never did I witness any violence in Free Speech Alley as a student at LSU but heated exchanges were a regular occurrence.
The point is LSU’s Free Speech Alley was something to behold. It was a “safe space” where anyone could say whatever was on their mind and though the subject matter might have been offensive to some, it simply was understood that we all have the right to speak freely regardless if it’s a fool doing the talking.
David Duke comes to mind. He was a regular in Free Speech Alley back in the day when he was an LSU student. Something tells me Duke would be shouted down today and run out of town on a rail if he dared to grace the gates at LSU to share his views with the students. But maybe not.
The notion that free speech is widely welcome at LSU has come into question in light of a movement to thwart conservative activist Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking this week at a gathering on campus hosted by an outfit called Students for Trump. Meanwhile, the same boys and girls who have a problem with Yiannopoulos speaking at LSU also have zeroed in on stopping the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity from hanging one of their entertaining banners from a second floor window at the DKE house on fraternity row. For decades, the DKEs have used those banners to convey their thoughts on politics and public figures and such to passersby. I suppose someone of the “sensitive” sort would find the DKEs to be a bit crude from time to time, but I always enjoyed reading their handiwork. It’s never dull and often hilarious.
Yiannopoulos serves as technology editor of the conservative website Breitbart News. He’s an Englishman who’s known for his quick wit and his unabashed criticism of social justice, Islam, feminism, political correctness and anything else championed by the progressive Left.
But some students at LSU who are aligned with the so-called “equality” movement feel Yiannopoulos’s presence on the campus would be a bad thing. According to LGBT advocate Courtney Murr, Yiannopoulos “uses inflammatory language and is misogynistic and racist and homophobic and all kinds of things.”
“We think it can make a lot of people around here very uncomfortable and if the university is supporting this person who uses hate speech as part of his comedy, then the university is OK with students being uncomfortable,” said Murr, in an interview with The (Baton Rouge) Advocate.
Perhaps Murr should rethink the “homophobic” argument since Yiannopoulos is gay and makes no bones about it.
As for the DKEs, it would appear the fraternity’s response to the flap created by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick over his refusal to stand for the National Anthem was too offensive for a few of those impressionable minds at the Ole War Skule.
“Oh say can you see, Kaepernick sits when he pees,” read a recent DKE banner.
“It seems to be extremely misogynistic,” said Jakeyla Chavis, an LSU junior, in an interview with The Advocate.
Students like Chavis and Murr, though obviously committed to their beliefs, should understand that life often isn’t very fair. There will be occasions when we’ll be exposed to something we deem inappropriate and offensive, but this is America and we all have the right to tune out, so to speak. We also all have the right to protest to make our views known.
But we should take every measure to refrain from trying to constrain the rights of others to speak their minds, regardless of the viewpoint.
Yet, students like Chavis and Murr are prime examples of the extent the Left is taking these days to shut down any exchange of ideas that doesn’t comport with their take on the world. Their actions are dangerous, too, especially when governments or universities fail to exhibit the fortitude to say, “Get over it.”
Sam Hanna Jr. is publisher of The Ouachita Citizen, and he serves in an editorial/management capacity with The Concordia Sentinel and The Franklin Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org