Booing Is Also Speech

« May 2017 »

Memo to "free speech" advocates: PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH.

Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black university, invited Betsy DeVos to be its commencement speaker over the completely understandable objections of its student body. Whether out of misguided idealism or high-minded generosity, the invitation was made, and gladly accepted by an administration still working on its image as Not Total Racists.

DeVos was promptly booed damn near out of the fucking building yesterday by the students. But even though she had to raise her voice to do it, she got a sound bite out designed to make her seem like the victim. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"Let's choose to hear each other out. We can choose to listen, be respectful and continue to learn from each other's experience."

This sounds great. It's certainly in line with the spirit of the open and free exchange of ideas that I'm sure was the reason behind her invitation. It is also, of course, complete bullshit.

First, of course, the speech Betsy DeVos gives to Bethune-Cookman University is not going to be a sincere expression of her ideas and worldview. It's going to be a carefully constructed, focus-grouped, and market-tested set of platitudes designed to put the best spin on the Trump administration's hostile policies towards historically black universities and colleges, most recently expressed in a Trump signing statement that generated about two hours of outrage and coverage because Trump.

But more importantly, when most people, and pretty much all conservatives, advocate for the free exchange of ideas, the "exchange" consists of them talking and you shutting up and listening. That's not an exchange, that's a delivery. It's never Liberty University inviting Bernie Sanders to speak and their students who have to be polite.

I'll tell graduating students from a historically black university they have to respectfully listen to, evaluate, and appreciate Betsy DeVos' bullshit when you present me any shred of evidence that DeVos offered the same respect and consideration to any of the criticism she received when she laughably tried to paint HBCUs as "real pioneers when it comes to school choice".

Until that day, shut the fuck up. A bunch of people who don't listen or change their minds when presented with hard factual evidence are going to lecture the rest of us on learning from each other's experience? No. You want to set an example, set an example. A real one. Try listening to the boos, to the criticisms, to the town hall crowds. Try listening to scientists and thermometers. Try recognizing objective, non-partisan reality. Stop hiding behind ideals you've never held to and only pay lip service to because you know the punditocracy actually believes in those ideals and make your audiences look bad. Or, you know. Just shut the fuck up.