Free Speech, Racism, and Our Right to Protest:
Opposing Charles Murray & Challenging the Right on Campus
Thursday, March 23
Columbia University, 116th and Broadway
Hamilton Hall, Room 309
Join the Barnard/Columbia branch of the International Socialist Organization for our weekly branch meeting, this week discussing why white supremacist Charles Murray should be opposed everywhere he goes, and what socialists’ role is in confronting the right on campuses.
Students who protested, and ended up shutting down, a planned speech by Charles Murray at Middlebury College have come under heavy criticism. Multiple pieces in the New York Times have described the students as an “angry mob” and evidence of “emotional coddling” and “intellectual impoverishment”. Professors and intellectuals across the political spectrum, including prominent liberal thinkers at our own university, have condemned them for failing to respect free speech and a robust exchange of ideas.
This debate has obscured several important truths. Free speech should be vigorously defended on campuses, and university administrations should have no part in banning speakers or dictating who departments and student groups can and cannot invite. It’s worth saying that the left has usually been at the forefront of fighting for and defending this right to free speech. But this right must also extend to students who choose to protest right-wing speakers; and when the speaker in question has built his career peddling the idea that Blacks are genetically inferior to whites on the basis of junk science that has been thoroughly discredited, students have not only a right, but a responsibility, to expose his ideas as nothing more than an illegitimate cover for white nationalism. Likewise, they also have a right to demand that those in power do not lend legitimacy to Murray’s racism – as happened when Middlebury’s President agreed to introduce him and a liberal professor agreed to moderate in a forum that provided no equal space for students to contest his ideas.
This debate has now come to Columbia, as Charles Murray has been invited by the American Enterprise Institute and Columbia University Campus Republicans, and received support from the Columbia Political Union. The ISO, along with other student activists, will be publishing a letter in The Spectator demanding that those opposed to Murray’s racism be allowed to debate him and force him to defend his ideas. We also plan to protest him when he speaks and to expose his racism. Briefly before 8:00pm, unless our demand for a chance to contest Murray’s disgusting racism is met, ISO members in attendance will be walking out of Murray’s speech and hosting our own meeting discussing Murray’s reactionary history, the role he has played in providing ideological justification for mass incarceration and attacks on welfare and affirmative action, and why it is so important for him to be exposed and opposed right now. We also hope that this can provide a space to discuss the most effective ways for fighting racism and the growth of the right – on campus and off – and why such a fight has to also be a fight with the fullest commitment to free speech and democratic rights.
Be on the lookout for our letter in The Spectator, and check out Murray’s profile as an “extremist white nationalist” from the Southern Poverty law Center.