Students should challenge societal regressivism through tolerance of all opinions despite controversy, lack of popularity

2 weeks ago
Nathan Steinle
Commentary

In the political sphere, the term “regressivism” is ambiguous. Yet, one meaning can be derived after realizing that acting hypocritically about freedom of expression is regression. In this sense regressivism is the advocacy of social or liberal hypocrisy.

Across the political spectrum, too many of us are seduced by regressive tendencies to gain political triumph and security — a gain that comes at a grave cost.

Examples abound and the most obvious is the mob madness of social media reactions. Social media masses simply shut down suspect offenders, and hypocritically take from them their First Amendment right to offend. Without the license to offend, there is no freedom of expression.

Thought police are increasingly forcing language on us, as UCLA professor of law Eugene Volokh documents regarding pronouns for transgender individuals.

He states that in New York, one can face “civil penalties up to $125,000 for violations, and up to $250,000 for violations that are the result of willful, wanton or malicious conduct’ if people don’t speak the way the government tells them to speak.”

Mandating such “highly conspicuous, nonstandard usage … violates basic First Amendment principles,” Volokh concludes.

Arbitrarily legislating word choice for other individuals is hypocritically wanting freedom from discrimination by discriminating others. Of course, I am not advocating that transgender people be excluded from civil protections. What I mean is that legislating allowable pronoun usage is counterproductive to preventing discrimination.

Transgender people deserve the same protections as everyone else, but it must be accomplished without being hypocritical. Slippery-slope arguments are rarely valid, but here it is: Where do we draw the line when deciding what is the correct way to address someone? Such arbitrary lines always begin with hypocrisy and end with tyranny. 

It’s not progress if we’re reverting to ways of thinking that we know are mutually destructive. Regressive individuals seek to advance hypocrisy, usually through double standards. So, how do we respond to regression?

We must tactfully challenge hypocrisy in the march of progress. Go out and talk to new people. Generate a controversial dialogue. Write to your congressperson, go peacefully protest, run for office or join a movement. Say what you feel needs to be heard, rather than what others want you to say.

Clearly, simply protesting or starting a conversation is not sufficient in avoiding regression — it’s about how you do it. For instance, universities are the supposed epicenters of progressivism, but now are cesspools of regressivism.

At the Feb. 1 UC Berkeley protests sparked by Milo Yiannopoulos’ visit, student protestors were documented excluding and blocking people on the basis of their skin color, which defeats the entire purpose of demonstrating for racial justice. Basically, do not become an example of what you’re protesting against.

Later that evening, the protest was hijacked by groups calling themselves “anti-fascists” wearing all black and wielding cudgels to harass and assault the opposition which is, quite hypocritically, what fascists do. We cannot fight brown shirts with brown shirt tactics, or else we find ourselves wearing one.

Recently, an organization called American Vanguard posted fliers on campuses around the country, including UTD. Students reacted angrily on social media. Many demanded the fliers be removed and UTD prosecute the organization because it is not permitted to solicit on campus without being a registered student group. On these grounds, it is reasonable to desire the removal of the fliers. Nevertheless, the intolerance directed toward the ideas presented on those posters is worrisome.

Student Government President Akshitha Padigela in her statement to The Mercury regarding the content of the posters said, “Posters, such as the ones we have seen across campus, should not and will not be tolerated.”

It is outright hypocritical to want diversity of opinion while suppressing opinions that are absurd. According to a current U.S. Supreme Court precedent, hate speech is free speech. Thus, it’s deceptive for students to want a free environment while being intolerant of opinions that they think are hateful. We do not have to accept others’ opinions, but we must tolerate them. 

I certainly agree that the content of those posters was indefensible, but I also think that the views should be tolerated since they do not incite violence.

Ultimately, when starting dialogue use semi-Socratic methods so that all opinions are heard and weighed per evidence rather than emotion. When confronted with a displeasing idea, reason with it rather than suppressing it. Regressive thinking turns us against our own principles by convincing us to be hypocritical toward one another, and in the process we lose all that we have fought for.