Letters to the Editor

Letter: Speech, not protestors endangered by Kelly lecture

By
Friday, November 15, 2013

The guest column (“Organizers and supporters of the demonstration against Ray Kelly: Standing for racial justice: A public statement,” Nov. 11) is troubling on many different levels. The organizers and supporters of the demonstration assert that a speech by New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly made them feel “unsafe,” “threatened” and “intimidated.” It is unclear what precisely made these students feel unsafe. I do not believe there is any evidence that the University was not taking measures to avoid physical threats or confrontation. Therefore, I can only conclude that it was the content of the speech that made the students feel unsafe. Protection and defense of freedom of speech cannot and should not be based on the content of the speech. That notion is antithetical to the fundamental concept of free speech. It is precisely speech that is difficult to hear or makes us feel uncomfortable that needs the most protection.  If students do not feel safe discussing difficult and uncomfortable issues in a controlled university environment, it is difficult to conceive of a forum that would allow for the free exchange of difficult and uncomfortable ideas.

It is easy to defend speech with which we agree. It is, however, of the utmost importance to provide an open forum for speech with which we disagree or which makes us feel uncomfortable. The most disappointing part of the guest column is the failure of the student writers to confront the real issue in the free speech debate: who decides what speakers will be permitted to speak and what speakers will be prohibited from speaking. It is not free speech that should scare us, but rather the suppression of speech.

 

Tani Sapirstein ’78

  • TheRationale

    Oh look, a cogent argument.

  • Arafat
  • mxm123

    Free speech is wonderful as long as Tani Sapirstein agrees with it.

    This is Tani Sapirstein in 2013

    “It is, however, of the utmost importance to provide an open forum for speech with which we disagree or which makes us feel uncomfortable.”

    This is Tani Sapirstein in 2012

    “I was distressed and dismayed to learn that the Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies, an official University committee, sent a letter to President Christina Paxson requesting a campus dialogue to discuss divestment from Israel.”

    http://www.browndailyherald.com/2012/12/06/letter-u-divestment-from-israel-a-double-standard/

    The Brown Hypocrite Of the Year Goes To ?

    • Matt Smith

      Umm no? Her letter in 2012 merely states her problems with, what she considers, the dishonest focus on Israel. Disagreeing with the direction of a discussion and questioning it’s legitimacy is very different than stifling dialogue.

      • mxm123

        Umm Yes ! For argument sake lets accept your hypothesis

        “Disagreeing with the direction of a discussion ” which make her “distressed and dismayed ” is different from “speech with which we disagree or which makes us feel uncomfortable.” ?

        You’re trying really hard.

        • gman213

          You got owned dude!

        • Josh Benda

          Nope.
          Sapirstein’s 2012 article is PART of the discussion. She is questioning the motives of people she disagrees with. Did Sapirstein or others actually shut down pro-Palestinian speech, or the BDS debate, on the campus? I doubt it…

          The equivalent of Sapirstein 2012 would be for those who shut down Kelly’s speech to question him on the motives justifying policies such as stop-and-frisk.

          But that would mean actually letting him speak, and listening.

          Nice try, though

          • mxm123

            Objecting to the very happening of a “campus dialogue” because she doesn’t agree to the topic is different from disagreeing with its content.

            As if pro-Israeli groups/persons have never tried to shut down such speakers. And oh, I understand that may be news to you.

            Disagreeing is far from “Distressed”. You may want to check your dictionary.

          • Josh Benda

            mxm123:
            As if pro-Israeli groups/persons have never tried to shut down such speakers. And oh, I understand that may be news to you.
            – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
            Yes it is – and given the current oppressively PC climate on most campuses, it’s more likely you’re fabricating useful factoids as many lefties do.

            So tell me – exactly when and where were pro-Palestinian speakers invited on to campus EVER shouted down or locked out?

          • mxm123

            For a guy trying to blur the distinction between the occurrence of a dialogue and the contents of a dialogue, u seem to give a pretty good spiel about “fabricating useful factoids”.

            Are u, Mr Non-PC still pretending that Tani Sapirstein was all for free speech ?

            Oh, by the way a Brown Prof did make a serious accusation of our dear Hillel of trying to stifle and disrupt his conference on the Middle East. The university “investigated” it for oh about 5 ms before Ruthie declared with the utmost certainty that the Hillel was absolutely, positively, most certainly innocent.

            Check your facts “Mr Free Speech”
            http://www.campus-watch.org/article/id/4147