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Philosophy prof: media, universities should refuse to host unpopular and offensive speakers

Instructor wants ‘institutions’ to refuse speakers the instructor disagrees with

A philosophy professor from Vassar College argued recently in The New York Times that “institutions” should deny “access” to speakers that the professor deems “ignorant.”

“The invincibly ignorant and the intellectual huckster have every right to express their opinions, but their right to free speech is not the right to an audience,” Bryan W. Van Norden wrote in The Times yesterday.

Norden, who also teaches at Wuhan University and Yale-NUS College, argues that the concept of free speech advocated by John Stuart Mill, which argues for unfettered public discourse, “supports the tyranny of the majority.”

Americans are experiencing “the systematic moronization of children and adults alike by publicity and propaganda,” Norden argues, in part because media outlets allow speakers like Kirk Cameron on television to argue against the theory of evolution.

Norden dismisses the possibility of censoring “right-wing perspectives” in part because “it would be impossible to do without the exercise of terror.” He argues, however, that “we could take a big step forward by distinguishing free speech from just access. Access to the general public, granted by institutions like television networks, newspapers, magazines, and university lectures, is a finite resource.”

“Justice requires that, like any finite good, institutional access should be apportioned based on merit and on what benefits the community as a whole,” he continues.

“There is a clear line between censoring someone and refusing to provide them with institutional resources for disseminating their ideas,” Norden continues.

Though Norden does not specify how media and institutional gatekeepers would decide who gets “access” and who does not, all of the examples of speech he frames negatively are from conservative or right-leaning speakers, suggesting that Norden believes that access-denial would largely prohibit non-liberals from being able to speak.

Read the whole opinion piece here.

MORE: Professor: Free speech bill is the real threat to free speech

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