I have previously written about how cities and universities are now cancelling conservative speakers in order to protect public safety. I recently discussed this rising rationale for barring speakers, a way for officials to claim that they are still being content neutral while achieving the same result of censoring speakers. The latest such example occurred in Canada at Ryerson University where the school canceled a free speech panel after some groups criticized the appearance of conservative speakers. The school gave them what they demanded in the name of protecting public safety.
The August 22nd panel was entitled prophetically as “The Stifling of Free Speech on University Campuses” and was to include University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson and journalist Faith Goldy. Peterson has been at the heart of the pronoun controversy after he refused to use students’ preferred pronouns. Goldy is part of Rebel Media, a conservative outlet. They were to be joined by Behavioural scientist Gad Saad and psychologist Oren Amitay scheduled to join them.
Of course, the university could not say that it was yielding to the “heckler’s veto” and barring the conservatives from speaking. Instead, Ryerson Communications Director Michael Forbes cited the now mantra like safety concerns for cancelling the event.
“After a thorough security review, the University has concluded that Ryerson is not equipped to provide the necessary level of public safety for the event to go forward . . . In light of recent events, Ryerson University is prioritizing campus safety.”
One of the protest organizers, Christeen Elizabeth, said that they inundated the Ryerson with demands for cancelation under the rallying cry “No Fascists in Our City!”
In fairness to the school, the panel sponsors were considering changes in light of the intense rhetoric inflaming people on campus. However, that still raises the perverse incentive of these decisions. Protesters now routinely organize to stop speakers from appearing on campus by either intimidating the school officials or blocking the speakers. The end result is that the heckler’s veto is controlling our public discourse.