Written by: Jr Bundy and Andrew Gebe
Friday, at Portland State University Dave Rubin hosted a seminar discussing free speech and political correctness on college campuses.
Philosophy professors Christina Hoff Sommers and Peter Boghossian joined Rubin on stage for the discussion in front of nearly 400 audience members. The event was $15 to attend but free to students.
Concerned citizens utilized their first amendment rights post-election. Many people unhappy with the election results shared their opinions through protests across the country, including in Portland.
The speakers were critical of violent forms of protests and safe spaces, concluding that these methods have been antithetical to the first amendment.
All three speakers acknowledged that they cannot remember a time when protests were so violent and people couldn’t speak their minds, prompting the discussion.
The lecture began with Rubin referencing the attack against controversial speaker Richard Spencer, who coined the term “alt-right,” short for alternative right. The weekend of the presidential inauguration, video footage of an unprovoked protester assaulting Spencer went viral over social media.
The speakers made it clear they disagree with Spencer’s opinions, however, they defended his right to free speech and rejected the violence used against him.
After the speakers defended Spencer’s right to free speech, some members of the audience disagreed and spoke out mid conversation. One audience member blurted out, “Don’t be a nazi!,” responding to the speakers’ advocacy for non-violence against hateful speech and rhetoric.
Boghossian reinforced the idea of non-violent protesting amid disruptive audience members. “Cruelty does not teach anyone a lesson,” instead it “reinforces the belief they have,” Boghossian said.
Outside the lecture hall, a representative for PSU’s Queer Resource Center handed out informational pamphlets, advocating for the use of Safe Spaces, now referenced as “Accountable Spaces,” and the definition of Microaggressions. The pamphlet, titled “The Realities of Marginalized People,” used a quote form Boghossian, using his own words against himself and the speakers at the event. “If your beliefs are true, then you have nothing to lose by subjecting them to scrutiny. If they’re false, then you have everything to gain,” said Boghossian.
Hoff Sommers summarized the point of the discussion by saying that we have to,“bridge the gap between the moderate right and moderate left.”
A singular red hat distinguished itself among audience members, stating “Make America Great Again.”
After the speaking event, the Trump supporter, Scout Alter, reiterated the talking points proposed by Hoff Sommers and the other speakers. Alter said, “debates and arguments is what’s going to bridge the gap (between the left and right),” not violence.
Alter said it was his first time wearing the MAGA hat in public. He felt he had the best opportunity to express his political beliefs at the event because it revolved around free speech and expression.
In the context of social media, people have distanced themselves from in person conversations, allowing them to express unfavorable beliefs. People with unpopular opinions have retreated to social media by using aliases and avatars in order to protect their identity.
In opposition, people will use anonymous social media accounts to attack those with opposing opinions. The speakers gave personal accounts of online harassment directed toward them. Rubin noted that someone called him a homophobe over social media, when in fact Rubin is outspoken about being a gay journalist on his YouTube show The Rubin Report.
Rubin said there is a “relentless group of 40 people who have devoted their lives to annoying me. These keyboard warriors that just want to upset everybody, that’s what’s making people crazy.”
A popular YouTuber who also appeared at the event, MundaneMatt, expressed a similar disdain for social media and said, “I want nothing more than to get off social media.” Matt emphasizes that nothing is going to be solved over social media; instead he believes the gap can only be bridged through in-person conversations.
Immediately after the election, The Indy posted an article in which Clark College leaders spoke up about unity. Tim Cook, Vice President of Clark College, acknowledged the political divisiveness on and off campuses stating “Clark College is a place where we support each other, care deeply for our students and work daily to make a positive impact on society. We have much work to do.”