In the latest installment of “Change My Mind,” comedian and political commentator Steven Crowder asks college students, including a member of Texas Christian University’s debate team, to convince him that he is wrong to believe that “hate speech is not real.”
To tackle the controversial topic, Crowder decided to return to a campus where his previous appearance stirred up all kinds of controversy, including accusations of being a “rape culture apologist” and getting officially condemned by administrators, who even offered students “adversely effected” by his opinions counseling to help them deal with the “trauma.”
Though he was sure to be branded a “hate speech apologist” this go-round, Crowder returned to TCU to have some more open, honest, and unedited conversations. After the university gave him several hoops to jump through, he and his team decided they’d just show up and see what happened.
Give me “one country that has better net results for human freedom and human rights by restricting speech,” Crowder asks a student at one point. He gets no coherent response.
His first challenger, who is from Oregon, makes clear at the beginning that he is not interested in having his mind changed, but is rather there to change Crowder’s mind. Crowder is game.
Crowder begins by defining the terms so they can both speak the same language. He underscores that he is not arguing that there is no such thing as hateful speech, rather, that he does not believe that we should legally label some speech “hate speech” based on its “level of offense or level of oppression,” as is the case in some more left-leaning countries, like England or his home country of Canada.
“I feel there should be limits on what should be said on campuses, as in if there’s someone saying blatantly racist things,” the Oregonian says. “I think it would be better for all involved, just so there isn’t that sort of hateful attitude just because it can lead to conflict that isn’t necessary.”
“So you’re just talking about on a private campus?” asks Crowder.
“I’m talking in general,” the student responds, though when Crowder presses him further on it, he eventually changes his view to limiting the rules to speech allowed on campus.
Crowder points out that on publicly funded campuses, the administration cannot take partisan positions on speech. He then brings it back to the country at large: should the government limit speech across the board? “For the country at large, I think it should be more of a taboo,” the student replies, indicating he actually agrees on one level with Crowder.
“It already is a taboo,” says Crowder. “So how are you changing my mind?…That’s just offensive speech, but it’s protected under the First Amendment, right?”
“That’s true,” the student concedes. “So you agree that racism is bad and that no one should say that?”
“I agree,” Crowder responds. “I agree that racism is bad. Do I think people should be allowed to be racist? Sure. … You just coupled two very different questions.”
The next challenger is a girl who introduces herself as a member of the speech and debate team at the university. They begin by again establishing their terms. “I believe that any speech that would be differentiated out from the umbrella of free speech doesn’t exist,” says Crowder. “I don’t think there’s speech offensive enough or egregious enough to warrant any kind of legislation.”
“So unequivocally, all speech is protected?” she asks.
“Yes,” he says.
“I 100% agree with you that free speech should be protected,” she says, noting that she’s from Russia and it’s “terrible” over there. But then she adds, “I just wonder, what about fear-mongering, any speech that is a call to action for violence to occur?”
After she cites the Pulse night club massacre as being prompted by religious hate speech, Crowder presses her to try to actually define hate speech legally. She attempts to, but Crowder points out that she’s actually talking about “direct” calls to violence, for which there are already laws on the books and is not the same as expressing offensive opinions which are covered as free speech. She then attempts to argue that “indirect” promotion of violence should also be restricted, an argument Crowder counters.