The Transgender ‘Threat’ To Free Speech Is A Lie
KC Clements

Several fallacies in this article

First, with respect to your cliche regarding “fire in a crowded theater,” I will simply refer you to an article explaining how this quote continues to be misused: Long story short, the quote was highly controversial when it was made and, more importantly, the case in which it was made was overturned decades ago.

Because, hey, this is America and even fascists and neo-Nazis whose literal objective is to silence and kill minorities should have the right to free speech!

Yeah. This isn’t hard, and nothing in your abbreviated section on the “Free speech movement” (a strange term, since free speech issues have been of primary import for the history of the country, and not just since the ‘60’s) negates it. Unless a speaker is inciting to violence or inciting a riot, essentially the speech is protected (with some caveats regarding obscenity). One could perhaps argue that Milo’s speech targeting the trans woman in Milwaukee was on the edge of that line, and it was no doubt utterly despicable (and should have caused administrators everywhere to decline to book him in the future), but otherwise, even fascists and neo-nazis have virtually unfettered rights to free speech.

You are correct that people aren’t entitled to any platform they want. In fact, free speech jurisprudence centers around considerations of the “forum/fora” in which speech takes place. Public parks and sidewalks are the most free and open fora, where you can say just about anything without interference from the state, and then there are gradations after that (quasi-public, private, etc.). However, with respect to these protests against speakers that have already been invited, it is highly inappropriate and dismaying that these protests are taking place, and there is a line of constitutional jurisprudence that may give you some guidance on the issue. Those cases concern what can, may, and must be in a public library (or public school library, for that matter).

Obviously, libraries are limited spaces. One cannot carry every book that was ever written, and thus they are like a microcosm of the “platform” issue that was summarily discussed in your article. How do we make considerations and concessions regarding what goes in a library, in light of the practical space considerations? It starts with a decision called Pico (Board of Education v. Pico in 1982). Basically, school administrations and, by proxy, public library administrators have fairly broad discretion to determine what goes on the shelves at a library in the first place. They have to be allowed to make these decisions, and they have to be free and fair when it comes to accepting public input on the matter. (One can analogize to the decisions about who comes to speak that college administrators have to make, and I think they’d be wholly justified in denying someone like Milo based on his history of targeting individuals rather than discussing ideas, and his basic lack of anything interesting or worthwhile to say.) But once a book is already on the shelves, administrators are very limited in their ability to take the book out/off. I will simply quote the relevant portion:

In brief, we hold that local school boards may not remove books from school library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books and seek by their removal to ‘’prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.’”

Similarly, once a speaker has been invited, he or she may not be disinvited simply because you are anyone you know happens to dislike or disagree with what that person has to say. Period. Full stop. The very crux of first amendment protections is that they apply to speech that we find repugnant and repulsive and disgusting.

Back to your article, I would like to juxtapose two quotes of yours:

Actions of protesters who came out against the bus and were, for the most part, acting well within their First Amendment rights to peaceful assembly and protest” (Emphasis added.)

Would you not be driven to anger, to vandalism, to protest in the face of the denial of your literal humanity? Are these not, in fact, viable forms of political action and discourse?

I don’t know what incident you’re describing, but it seems clear to me that during this incident, the crowd protesting the bus/anti-trans people got violent and disruptive and tried to quash the anti-trans folks’ speech. That is not appropriate — ever. You try to downplay this as merely a justifiable response to having one’s personhood questioned, and I simply cannot agree (see how this works?). Vandalism, by and large, is not a legitimate way of responding to ideas that you don’t like, and it makes it seem like you have no ideas or arguments to counter the GO folks’ speech. It makes your side look like, you guessed it, bullies who are trying to disrupt others’ free speech.

I don’t care how detestable that speech is. I don’t care how much you hate it. I don’t care how angry you get. I find it despicable too. But shutting it down is not the appropriate response from either a legal or a practical standpoint, because when you do, guess what? You’ve just legitimized the otherwise preposterous argument that you’re infringing on their free speech. You have in fact made your side into a group of “violent, intolerant bullies.”

And it is not a substantive or legitimate response to claim that I have no say in the matter because I’m too “privileged” (for being white or straight, I presume). That’s an ad hominem that has no place in discourse, and it too makes your side look like it has no good arguments. I’m personally extremely pro-trans rights, but I’m also pro-first amendment rights, and I don’t appreciate the left’s current and seeming inability to confront ideas with ideas. It is approaching authoritarian levels. Let GO spout its idiocy; in case you haven’t noticed, they are losing in the marketplace of ideas. Stop snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and stop justifying bully tactics.

And guess what else? Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was absolutely right about the left’s insistence on language orthodoxy. You (and it’s a shame I can no longer say “we” here, but the left has grown so intolerant and so insistent on using authoritarian methods and rabid bullying to shut down discourse that I feel alienated from them — and you) have the audacity to claim that this person — a Nigerian black woman, for god’s sake — is too “privileged” to have a say in the matter or have something worthwhile to say. It’s astounding, and it’s absolutely the case that her speech was shut down by the trans community, despite that it was entirely reasonable. I watched that interview again, and only a borderline unhinged person could claim that she said something offensive by merely acknowledging that trans women and born-women have grown up with different experiences. I have this deep desire to grab you all collectively by the shoulders, shake you, and say “Get a fucking grip!”

If the “Free Speech Bus” was prevented from easy passage across the United States, it was because its message was so cruel and intolerable that allowing it to be disseminated freely in the name of “free speech” was simply not an option.”

How repugnant. How shameful. How detestable that you feel this is justified, simply because their message is to be disliked. If the left doesn’t collectively grow up and realize that words can and should be combated with words and ideas, and that shutting down others’ speech indicates that one has nothing but bully tactics in the arsenal, then you are not truly liberal and not my brethren.