The Tyranny of the Minority

Columnist Brittany Russell fears a tyrannical minority imposing its values on the campus community

Columnist Brittany Russell fears a tyrannical minority imposing its values on the campus community

By Brittany Russell, Columnist

Recent controversy has been stirred up regarding the campus free speech policy, and I’d like to exercise my right to free speech and say a few words regarding the new panel and a recent editorial “Liberal Values” published by columnist, Nick Arbaugh.

I take initial issue with the fact that he is dubbing the college authoritarian, and I warn everyone not to use that word lightly. Authoritarianism is simply not something the college would go for, and is hyperbolic, fear mongering nonsense. George Orwell is not writing the free speech statement, and “1984” is not coming to Gettysburg College any time soon. No one will let that happen, because that’s unreasonable.

I agree with Arbaugh on this point: the college is well within its right to try and determine how to balance free speech and protecting minority students who are at risk due to some of the ideas being shared, such as those shared by Robert Spencer. I also find this statement hypocritical, since I bet if I presented Arbaugh with Jerry Falwell’s rules and dress codes hindering free speech found at Liberty University, he would take no issue, and if I showed him NFL players taking a knee, he would take issue.

He fears tyranny, but I believe we’re being subjected to tyranny at this very moment with a president who was voted in by a minority group that was overrepresented in the Electoral College. That’s a separate issue for a separate cliché opinion piece about the Electoral College, but tyranny manifests itself in unique ways – he just happens to agree with the tyrant in charge (more on minority tyranny later).

When he argues the slippery slope point like others have before him, everyone draws a line. You stop when you stop. It’s like getting ice cream from a Servo soft-serve machine – you can sit there and let all of the ice cream in the machine into your bowl, and that’s your prerogative, but no one is going to do that. They’ll stop when they’ve had enough. The reason we are even discussing this free speech policy is because a small minority of students wants to make incendiary statements with little to no consequences.

That bothers me more.

If I say something that is socially inappropriate, I hope to be held accountable and told that’s inappropriate. We did not allow the small minority who wanted to yell “fire!” In a crowded theatre dictate that we should continue to allow someone to do that.

People do find reasonable limits to free speech, and accept them.

Eventually, Robert Spencer’s statements will be held to a standard that states it is not acceptable, somewhere probably up there with blatantly racist rhetoric, but it just happens to be trendy at the moment because of the Racist-Enabler-in-Chief.

However, at the moment, we are being held hostage by a vocal, unpopular, minority that is trying to over-represent itself as a majority. They’re making it sound like the ACLU is going to come knocking if we say “stop being racist and xenophobic. That’s n o t w e l c o m e o n t h i s campus.” I think the new free speech policy should definitely protect free speech, but it needs to properly hold students accountable for the use of free speech that is incendiary and not popular. It also should present standard benchmarks that show you can’t use this policy for hate speech. I mean this for all clubs and political groups from YAF to College Democrats to GACC.

I have expressed it as such in the committee’s public survey.

It does need to be applied equally and should use the same platform as a speaker other groups want to use (for example, one thing that did bother me about the handling of Robert Spencer was that Dr. Todd Green was placed in a smaller venue than Spencer). I will admit I’m not sure how to properly hold them accountable, and my initial thought is through speaker and club funding, which may or may not be the most popular opinion. However, I hope the panel will come up with a solution for that purpose.

I have said it before in this very paper that I value free speech, but I value kindness more. I agree you have the right to speak, but I have the right to tell you to leave me alone and stop enabling racists. I don’t fear censorship in the sense that Arbaugh is discussing in his piece.

I fear tyranny of the minority more, and I don’t agree with allowing a small club, feeling powerful because of a recent electoral victory, dictate that free speech can be used to dehumanize members of the student body with no consequences.

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Author: Brittany Russell

Brittany Russell '19 is a Political Science major and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies minor. She is the music director for 91.1 WZBT Gettysburg and hosts a show Thursdays at 9pm. When she's not DJing or spouting off her opinions, she appreciates coffee, lipstick, puns, and corgis. Follow her on Twitter @supbruss.

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  1. I don’t think that the dissident opinions you are citing are really a minoroity on campus. Considering the college is plopped in one of the reddest counties in the state, the college is essentially the minority. Although YAF looks to provoke with their intolerance, they once again show how many students are just as intolerant to challenging ideals. Words hurt, but remember they are only words.

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  2. This demonstrates a profound ignorance of the principle of the freedom of speech and seems to condone the censorship of opinion just because it is “unpopular”. Simply put, this is scary.

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  3. It sounds like you support “free speech” except for speech that is “incendiary and not popular” or that which you or others determine to be “hate speech”. Either you are for free speech or you are not…it’s as simple as that. It is exactly speech that is not popular that needs protection the most. If not, you might find that one day your speech or viewpoint is in the minority and the majority attempts to silence you. You don’t have to like someone’s speech or opinion but we should all value and defend their right to express it. If you then choose not to attend or to make them “accountable” by countering their arguments with more speech, deciding they are people you don’t care to associate with, etc. so much the better.

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  4. If Trump is the minority then he would have lost.

    Go back to your “safe zone” and cry. No one needs another clueless , cute pictured little rich white girl telling anyone what to do.

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