Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Ele Ludemann: Too scared to listen

How ironic, and troubling, that Victoria University students are too scared to listen to proponents of free speech:

Victoria University has postponed a planned debate on freedom of speech after concerns the event could become a platform for hate speech.

Last week, student magazine Salient criticised the lack of diversity of the five confirmed panellists – singling out the inclusion of the Free Speech Union’s Jonathan Ayling as a consistent supporter of harmful rhetoric.

Salient sub-editor Henry Broadbent said the Free Speech Union’s support of anti-trans activists and the anti-cogovernance campaign meant his inclusion compromised the safety of marginalised groups on the campus.

“The speech that [the Free Speech Union] are looking to defend is consistently speech that fits under the United Nations’ definition of hate speech, and this is the concern that we have with the university. Why is that you feel hate speech is a legitimate discourse that shouldn’t be suppressed?”

There is a very important difference between supporting an individual’s or group’s right to speak and supporting their ideas.

He said the presence of RNZ’s Corin Dann as moderator and the office of the vice-chancellor’s assurances that statements would be fact-checked during the debate, did little to persuade him that holding the event would not compromise the safety and well being of marginalised groups attending the university.

“If something harmful or hateful is said – even if it’s fact-checked and shut down immediately afterwards – it can’t be unsaid, ever. This panel is going to be held in the hub, where it’s unavoidable if you’re moving between your classrooms. The question becomes, do you value the safety of your students more or do you value the grievances of Jonathan Ayling more?” . .

The only grievances I’ve seen or heard Ayling express are about restrictions on free speech. I am a member of the FSU, receive regular emails, get their media releases and follow them on Twitter. I have never read or heard anything endorsing any hateful ideas.

Ayling said his organisation stood up for everyone’s right to speak, and he found it ironic a panel discussion on free speech risked being shut down because of “threats of boycotts and protests”.

“We stand up that weak arguments have their say so they can be shown to be weak arguments, and strong arguments have their say so they can be shown to be strong arguments. It’s a dangerous view that free speech needs to be held back from hurting minorities. The first thing free speech does is protect the minorities.

“If we’re going to live in this idea that everyone gets to have a say, that in a democracy everyone gets to participate in society equally, then we’re going to have to accept that if you disagree with someone or you consider their perspective offensive, or harmful, or belligerent, they still get a say. We have to have confidence in the fact that society as a whole can discern error from truth.” . . .

“If students are not resilient enough or mature enough to be able to deal in ideas – even those that they find uncomfortable – then maybe they shouldn’t be at university.”


You can listen to Sean Plunkett interview VU student union president Marcail Parkinson here.

She shows that she too conflates support for someone’s right to speak with support for what they say.

Ele Ludemann is a North Otago farmer and journalist, who blogs HERE - where this article was sourced.


Anonymous said...

Their threats of protest are tantamount to throwing a tantrum. Let them throw their tantrum while the adults talk amongst themselves and those who have actually grown up.

Erica said...

What I am failing to grasp is that critical thinking is currently mentioned in current educational documents.

Looking up the definition of critical thinking reveals it is the ability to effectively analyse information and form a judgement. It includes being aware of your own biases and assumptions when encountering information and applying consistent standards when evaluating sources. It is important in academic writing in all disciplines promoting freedom from research bias and considering alternative viewpoints.

It is quite plain to me many of those opposing the FSU are ideologues with an inability to fulfill the above conditions.