JASON RANTZ

Rantz: Seattle Libraries under pressure to illegally cancel event activists don’t like

Dec 11, 2019, 5:59 AM | Updated: 9:00 am
Seattle Library...
(Photo by Ron Wurzer/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ron Wurzer/Getty Images)

Seattle Progressive activists are livid that the Seattle Public Library is hosting an event for an organization they disagree with politically. So mad, they’re calling for censorship. And in typical Seattle fashion, the SPL is figuring out what to do, meeting with transgender staff and the city’s legal department.

The Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF) calls itself a “radical feminist organization” fighting for women’s rights — which includes fighting against some transgender issues where biological women are disadvantaged by trans-women.

In February, they’re holding an event titled “Fighting the New Misogyny: A Feminist Critique of Gender Identity” in order to offer “a critical analysis of gender identity.” Sounds boring, to me, but to Progressive activists, it’s a hate rally!

The Gender Justice League, a far Left LGBTQ group out of Seattle, said they will speak with SPL leadership about the event: “The end result of a hate group using the library as a venue to ‘critique’ the existence of a minority group creates a hostile environment and is unacceptable,” they wrote in a statement per a local newspaper.

Tobi Hill-Meyer, co-executive director of the GJL, calls WoLF a hate group because, according to the Times, “their stated purpose is to critique the existence of trans people and in this current climate that’s a serious threat.”

Not that it matters, but WoLF isn’t actually a hate group, no matter what Hill-Meyer pretends.

They’re simply a group that disagrees with the Gender Justice League. If you polled average Americans about some of the positions the GJL holds, the group would be well outside the mainstream. Does that make the GJL a hate group? Nope.

There are undoubtedly nuances and complexities when discussing some transgender issues, and we should stop pretending that it’s cut and dry. A transgender woman should have the same rights as biological women, for example, but we should stop pretending that transgender women don’t have an athletic advantage when competing against biological women. This very issue is playing out in the courts.

Leaders at SPL are taking these complaints seriously. SPL’s chief librarian Marcellus Turner said in a statement: “Controversial groups like these can test our limits as democratic centers of free speech and intellectual freedom, as well as our limits as a united community and organization. I hope you can recognize the difficult situation this has created for us.”

It shouldn’t be a difficult situation. In fact, it’s not.

WoLF undoubtedly has the right to use a library for an event. Their speech is protected and they cannot be shunned by a public library on the basis of their content, even if aggressive activists find the positions hateful.

Progressives activists don’t get to decide what speech should or shouldn’t be censored on the basis of “hate speech.” That term isn’t even legally meaningful — “hate speech,” even as defined by activists, is protected speech. And many of these angry activists hold the position that any opposition to trans issues as the activists see them is somehow an assault against a marginalized group. Indeed, these same voices will undoubtedly say this very column is hate speech. It is not. It’s simply offering a mainstream – and constitutional – opinion they don’t like.

I was told a quote when I was in college that has stayed with me: “imagine the power to censor in the hands of your worse enemy.”

One could very easily justify saying no to a Gender Justice League event, particularly the way some activists speak about conservatives — a protected class in Seattle. Indeed, one could go one step further. Imagine the outcry if far-right activists, given the power, would censor books and events even mentioning trans issues. Folks on the Left would be outraged. They should be. I’d join them in that protest. But the only ones acting out in a truly offensive way are the activists seeking to censor protected speech that is very well within the mainstream in this country.

If these activists are so upset that folks hold different opinions than them, they should rent out space at the library and hold their own counter event. Or perhaps they should go to the event, hear the argument, then civilly engage in a rigorous conversation.

But we’re in Seattle, where taking rabid offense to even mainstream views is considered a sport. And rather than engage in meaningful dialogue with those they oppose, they take the cowardly, easy way out and try to silence.

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Rantz: Seattle Libraries under pressure to illegally cancel event activists don’t like