Are there limits to free speech? While reading this fascinating article by Tim Wise about a US Catholic university and how it should manage neo-Nazi student Andrei Chira, I reflected on how to deal with hateful or extreme comments on this site. It’s a tough call. I believe in robust debate, though free speech is never absolute. Wise articulates his view – which is pretty close to mine – in this follow-up article:
“Ultimately, the biggest problem with the ‘educate him, don’t ostracize him’ approach is that it prioritises Chira’s needs and interests over those of others: others who have done nothing wrong, quite unlike Chira. Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Jews, and queer students are also at the University for their personal and intellectual growth, every bit as much as Chira. They attend college so they can be nurtured, learn new things, and have old ways of thinking challenged on any number of subjects, as with Chira. To defer to Andrei Chira’s need for growth and exposure to truth, and to prioritise that need, even at the expense of running off folks of colour, Jews and gay and lesbian folks from the campus, is to suggest that he is more entitled to a Bellarmine education than they are. Surely this is neither the message we hope to send, nor the choice we wish to make, when it comes time, as it so often does, to choose sides.”
I believe the same rules can apply to a website. Therefore, any comments that are racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, sexist or way off topic will be deleted. I want healthy and challenging debate and ideas to be tested and provoked. Everybody has the right to comment but must feel comfortable and not intimidated when doing so.
Let the debate continue!