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By Siddarth Jain

Sophomore, UChicago

Mainstream conservative speakers, like Ben Shapiro and Candace Owens, should not be allowed to speak on college and university campuses. 

In the storied past, liberals and conservatives were ideologically consistent in their beliefs of freedom and tolerance. The conservative right has fallen far from the pedagogical tree. No longer are conservatives proponents of individualism, liberty, and sufferance, rather it has morphed into a movement that openly idolizes fascists and disregards basic scientific facts and human rights. 

As the epicenter of knowledge production, college campuses play a pivotal role in the development of political thought. Speakers with a variety of political views should be welcomed on campuses with open arms. Practically, however, the functionality of the marketplace of ideas rests on a foundation of mutual respect and tolerance. Despite cogent refutations, meaningful progress towards the truth can not be made unless both sides, at a minimum, tolerate the right of the other to exist. The American right has failed miserably in this respect.

The paradox of tolerance succinctly summarizes this situation–a society that is tolerant without limit is eventually seized by the intolerant. Openly debating white supremacists in the post-Civil War South created more segregationists and racists. Welcoming the National Socialists into German political discourse in the 1930s helped popularize and normalize a hateful ideology that could be furthest from the “truth.”

More of than not, conservative speakers actively disagree, not on substantive policy or philosophy, but rather the right of certain marginalized groups to exist. Students should not be forced to defend their fundamental rights, nor should universities normalize discourse that questions these principles. No amount of psychological trauma inflicted upon marginalized groups is ever justified under the misguided notion of  “discourse.”

Mainstream conservative speakers like Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannopolous have both routinely flaunted this expectation of mutual tolerance by referring to Arabs as sewage dwellers, LBGTQ+ individuals as pedophiles, and have denied the existence of transgender people despite a growing body of literature stating otherwise. Shapiro openly forwards the racially coded notion of the “welfare queen”–calling President Obama “the first Welfare Queen president.”

The popular right-wing, college speakers–Ben Shapiro, Candace Owens, and Milo Yiannopolous–and their fans are openly fascist ideologues masquerading as thinkers and political pundits. Their disregard for the truth and for the fundamental rights of their fellow humans is a threat, not only to the integrity of the institutions which they are welcomed at, but also to the groups which they blatantly disrespect.

Colleges should absolutely be bastions of open discussion, tolerance and respect: but respect is a two-way street. If the right expects to be tolerated on college campuses, then they must tolerate our rights first.

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