By Jasmine Speer
Recently University of Toronto’s Dr .Jordan B. Petersen held a speech rally supporting his idea to refuse using gender pronouns for transgender people. He made controversial statements in his rally, there is a video of extreme importance on YouTube that surfaced, revealing Doctor Jordan B. Petersen’s opinions on Canadian Parliamentary Bill C-16: a bill that would legalize punishment for people who refuse to use binary gender pronouns. Moreover, a certain type of censorship occurred at the rally where the Jordan Petersen held his speech. People who did not agree with his views deliberately silenced him by turning on a white noise machine to make his speech extremely difficult to hear for audience to hear.
The problem that stems in this issue is the use of force, machines, and/or violence of some kind to silence the opinions of the people–particularly contrary opinions. In a YouTube video of Dr. Peterson’s interrupted speech, he says that “the opponents of free speech are capable of making a lot of inarticulate noise.” He continues in a louder voice to say, “the reason I defend freedom of speech is quite straight forward: because that’s how people with different opinions settle their opinions… free speech is the mechanism by which we keep our society functioning.” He furthers his argument by pointing out that everyone deserves to have their opinion heard and “come to a consensus.” However, he is afraid that free speech is slowly dying as people restrict and censor it.
He sees this as a danger to society that is far beyond our comprehension. He claims that he knows where these restrictions lead, because he has studied totalitarianism for over 4 decades. He made this speech to the students of Toronto University with an intent to educate the public on the importance of the freedom of speech and the dangers of imposing your language or beliefs on others.
Fascinatingly, many people are quite divided on the issue of free speech. Some invoke the argument that if someone says something thought to be “hurtful,” that person needs to be censored or punished. This mentality was demonstrated at Dr. Peterson’s Toronto rally. If someone is presenting controversial ideas (like Petersen’s) in a public space, proponents of this standpoint would argue for that person to be silenced. This censorship eliminates the chance for a healthy and civilized debate. One of the greatest things about living in the United States is the various opportunities for healthy debate amongst peers, both in classrooms and in other public spaces. It is much more appealing to be in a classroom where rhetoric is well-used, for the purposes of positive classroom debate that exposes students to opposing viewpoints. As Nicolas Wolfson pointed out, we live in a place where there is bound to be some disagreement, because the United States is indisputably a very diverse place.
Author Nicolas Wolfson (1997) argues that separating hate speech from what is considered “good” speech is harmful and almost impossible to do, because doing so actually infringes on the First Amendment freedoms that make America unique. With this in mind, we should, as a society, respect other people’s opinions no matter how ridiculous we believe them to be. We must not impose of force our opinions onto others, for this is not a reasonable or ethical thing to do. As a society, we should endeavor to be self-aware and not coerce others to believe in our dogma, beliefs, or ideas. Doing so, as exemplified at Dr. Peterson’s rally, often leads to violence and chaos.
Instead of distancing ourselves from concepts that are uncomfortable for us, it is far better to educate ourselves on the opposing viewpoint, while humbly considering the possibility that another person’s viewpoint may be more accurate than your own.
What happened at Dr. Peterson’s speech Toronto is just a small example of how unhealthy opposition can censor free speech, but there are examples of censorship in our everyday lives. It is important to recognize this censorship when it occurs. It is also important, as Dr. Petersen illustrates, to recognize when we ourselves are personally guilty of censoring others.
In conclusion, United States is a free country that provides the opportunities and freedoms to do and accomplish a lot of things. When we deprive others of their freedoms, only chaos can arise. Depriving people of debate and more specifically, healthy debate, is not a good idea. In other words, when we encourage others to speak their opinions and we encourage ourselves to consider other ideas, we are most likely going to reach a reasonable consensus.