Rantz: Democrats slam Trump, but try to silence WSU Republicans
Over the weekend, President Donald Trump made controversial comments that, for many including myself, went too far in calling for boycotts, creating significant free speech implications. Washington state Democrats, in particular, were outraged. Too bad they’re ignoring what their own party is trying to do here at home.
Over a week ago, Washington state House and Senate Democrats started their unethical and despicable campaign to pressure Washington State University to punish the campus college Republican club over content the lawmakers deemed hateful; including speech that wasn’t sanctioned by the group nor occur on campus. In fact, the club came out strongly against the speech.
What’s worse, these Democrats either don’t understand what they’re asking for is in direct conflict with the First Amendment or they do, and they’re making their demands anyway.
Since the speech they’re referring to was overwhelmingly rejected by the WSU Republican club, the Democrats in this letter chose to be vague in their claims of the hateful rhetoric. They wrote:
“… hateful beliefs were not only allowed a full voice on campus, creating a hostile climate for many students and staff, they were amplified by having a WSU and state-sanctioned platform. These views continue to be provided that platform via official sanction of the WSU College Republicans as a ‘Registered Student Organization.’”
They go on to demand that the club lose their official recognition, though provide zero evidence that suggests the group even violated campus policies. Indeed, they appear to be referring to comments by the club’s former president made on his social media accounts; comments, again, that was rejected by the club.
Remarkably, these Democrats continue:
“This is not a question of free speech on campus. The students are free to voice their views with the same access to campus as anyone else. Speech becomes action when people are injured and when other hostile actions are encouraged. Groups which disparage participation of other students and create a hostile environment for everyone to succeed in pursuit of their education should not be given access to WSU and state-sponsored benefits as an RSO.”
These Democrats are wrong. Dead wrong. Shockingly and offensively wrong. This is absolutely a question about free speech. These are Democratic lawmakers are asking a public school to punish a group based on speech that the Democrats acknowledge is protected. The government cannot punish students based on protected speech – even if it’s speech that triggers Democrats and even if fellow Republicans simply find it odious. And, no matter what they say, speech can’t become action that injures people. Speech isn’t violence; that’s just a silly slogan they use to justify their aim to silence viewpoints they disagree with. And that’s what this is ultimately about. They’re not just going after “hate speech” (a term of no legal meaning), it’s about going after any speech opposing Progressive viewpoints on campus.
One might argue that calling students white supremacists or racist because they support enforcing federal immigration it disparages those students from participating in political debate. It might even create a hostile environment. But these Democrats aren’t going after that speech because they support that speech.
This dangerous move is being led by State Representative Gerry Pollet (D-46). He is an ideologue first, an embarrassment second. This letter is as laughable as it is dangerous. And while the Left is so united in their hatred of Trump’s speech on the NFL, they’re so quick to institutionally silence speech they disagree with on a public college campus. But they don’t quite understand that there’s a reason we don’t give the power to censor to our political opponents.
No doubt, they will aim to defend their unjust request by claiming any of their opponents support hate speech. So be it. It’s a lazy argument that absolves them of having to argue the merits of their actions. I support free speech, which means even odious speech I disagree with and find personally objectionable. The way our system works is we don’t silent speech we disagree with; we shine a light on it and debate it or – ahem – ignore it. We do it because the only way the marketplace of ideas can truly flourish is when we’re not giving ideologues the ability to play arbiter to what is or isn’t appropriate.
Other legislators that shamefully signed on to this letter are Rep. Cindy Ryu, Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, Rep. John Lovick, Sen. Kevin Ranker, Rep. Derek Stanford, Rep. Sherry Appleton, Sen. Lisa Wellman, Sen. Maralyn Chase, Rep. Lilian Ortiz-Self, Rep. Mike Sells, and Rep. Beth Doglio. They all are in desperate need of a primer on free speech. Remember this when they’re up for re-election. I will be.
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