Free Speech, Hate Speech, and Vandalism
By: jimmy cooper
In recent university news, the College Republicans have had their “Paint the Bridge” mural vandalized for the third year in a row. The mural attacked the new campus pronoun policy, and more insidiously, queer and transgender people. It denounced using people’s correct pronouns, reasoning that doing so would take away from “real” social issues, namely poverty, addiction, and education. Given the Republican Party’s stance on social welfare programs and its opposition to making schools more accessible and better funded, the panel has a hint of dark humor.
In the wake of the graffiti, “QUEER POWER,” has left folks, at least on the internet, starkly divided. Some say that the vandal is suppressing free speech or that they’re a fascist (and a Democrat!). Others think the College Republicans, after spawning a tradition, deserve it at this point. Either way, it’s an interesting half hour down the rabbit hole of the internet.
All of this brings up important questions of censorship and free speech. Are the College Republicans being censored? The right to free speech means that people can say what they want and that no opinion is illegal. It does not, however, keep opinions safe from backlash, argument, or retaliation. Just because you can say that transgender people, by existing, are taking resources away from other issues, doesn’t mean you’re right. It doesn’t mean that no one can argue, and it certainly doesn’t mean that your signs are protected from retaliating graffiti.
And there’s the argument of how LGBTQIA+ folks should have reacted. We should, apparently, be completely docile and engage only in civil debate. Maybe we should, but I, for one, am tired of measuring marginalized people’s worth by their civility and not by their humanity. So for that matter, I say love and support all LGBTQIA+ people, even the angry ones, even the ones with a can of spray paint, but most importantly, those of us being attacked through words or otherwise.