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The hypocrisy of opposing intolerance by being intolerant

By Scott Tibbs, April 28, 2014

Indiana Daily Student columnist Evan Stahr demonstrated last week that he does not understand the nature of tolerance, much less freedom of speech or academic freedom. As an example, take these three statements from his editorial in the IDS.

  • It is up to the community of IU students to keep bigots off campus.
  • Every time I see an advertisement for hate, it is taken down or painted over within a day.
  • They need to be sent a strong, unmistakable message you are not welcome here.

The group Stahr wants to force off campus is one that will get no support or sympathy from many (if any) outside that small student group - that student group claims to be a "white nationalist" group and has ties to the Ku Klux Klan. (Yes, those people are still around in 2014, and in Bloomington.) Opposition to this wicked ideology is universal across the political spectrum, from Republicans, Democrats and independents.

But here is the problem: It is not up to would-be vigilantes like Stahr, or even the IU administration, to decide that the "traditional youth" movement or the students who support that movement do not belong on the campus of a public university. As long as the self-described white nationalists are obeying the law and not breaking university rules of conduct, they have every right to be on campus spreading their message, no matter how sinful that message is. Such is the nature of free speech.

Censorship does nothing but elevate the white nationalists and makes the censors look like they do not have the intellectual capacity or emotional stability needed to refute easily refutable arguments. Violence against the white nationalists - which has happened - is even more counterproductive because it is not only immoral and illegal, but it completely discredits the people engaged in it. No one is going to respect your argument or you as a person if your first reaction is censorship, or worse, violence.

But this sort of attitude has implications far beyond some unsavory white nationalists. Extreme Leftists who engage in censorship by mob rule as a matter of normal behavior will not stop once the white nationalists are gone. Instead, they will turn to others. It could be anti-abortion students, Christian students openly advocating Biblical sexual morality, or opponents of affirmative action. This has dangerous implications for free speech, free thought and academic freedom. The university administration needs to step up and say that all views - no matter how abhorrent - are welcome at Indiana University.