Inviting trolls

Another free speech – teach the controversy – open inquiry – shut it down – listen and learn Item. Lindsay Shepherd invited a right-wing commentator to debate / speak at Laurier University, there were protests, Laurier declined to stop the event. Once the event got started someone pulled a fire alarm and that shut it down.

The talk was set to start at 7:15 p.m. ET. At approximately 7:20 p.m, a fire alarm was pulled and police evacuated the building, preventing anyone from entering the Paul Martin Centre.

Event attendees then moved to Veterans’ Green park, on the other side of campus, where Lindsay Shepherd, the organizer of the event, announced the talk was cancelled.

Shepherd, the co-founder of the campus group Laurier Society for Open Inquiry, said she’s “super disappointed” at the outcome.

According to Goldy’s Twitter account, the fire alarm was pulled before she was even introduced and presented on stage.

The speaker Faith Goldy tweeted “MARXISTS PULL ALARM” – which seems pretty stupid. Marxists? Not in any sense Marx would recognize.

“My view of these college leftists is more damaged than it used to be,” Shepherd said to CBC News, assuming the person who pulled the fire alarm was someone who opposed the talk.

“I had faith that we’d have a nuanced discussion where people can challenge the speaker at the end — obviously that was too much to hope for,” said Shepherd.

I think this is all a bit of a dog’s breakfast. I mostly share the general fatigue with students wanting to ban every single thing they disagree with, but on the other hand…nuanced discussion? With Faith Goldy? It seems vanishingly unlikely. And more broadly – there just isn’t any necessity to invite racists or misogynists or xenophobes to give speeches in order to find out what they think and have a debate with them. It’s easy to find out what they think, and to dispute it, without summoning them in the flesh. It’s easy to argue with racism or misogyny without face to face confrontations. What’s the point of the in person thing? Why Faith Goldy in particular? Is she a scholar?

Wikipedia doesn’t describe her as one:

She received her formal education at Havergal College and studied at Huron College at the University of Western Ontario. Goldy later graduated in politics and history from Trinity College at the University of Toronto, minoring in philosophy and physics. Goldy also began a Masters of Public Policy at the University of Toronto’s School of Public Policy and Governance.[12] Goldy is a Christian, of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.[13]

Goldy has been employed by a number of press and broadcast media organizations, including The Catholic Register, the Toronto SunTheBlaze, Bell Media, Zoomer Media, and the National Post. She is a former reporter with the Sun News Network and was employed by The Rebel Media, an online political and social commentary platform, where she presented political commentary in regular YouTube videos and a weekly show called On The Hunt with Faith Goldy.[14] On August 17, 2017, The Rebel Media fired her for being interviewed on The Krypto Report, a podcast produced by the white supremacist site The Daily Stormer.[15][16]

She has some graduate education and she worked as a reporter. I can’t really see the need to invite her to talk at a university in order to have a nuanced discussion, just as I don’t see the need to invite Bill O’Reilly or Rush Limbaugh to talk at universities.

I guess part (or maybe most or all) of the reason was to make the point that universities should welcome diversity of thought, and choosing someone conspicuously provocative was necessary to that. I think I see the reasoning, but I also think I don’t agree with it. It’s a stretch to call what “personalities” like Goldy do “thought,” so she’s not really a good example of diversity of thought. Shepherd has very good reasons for being sick of people who say “You can’t say that!” but I still don’t think that’s a reason to invite professional trolls to university (or student society) events.

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