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The "Pinkwashing" Panel at Williams: Free Speech Protects the Airing of All Manner of Ideas, even Contemptible Ones

Just over eight years ago, on February 28, 2016, then-President Adam Falk announced that he was cancelling a speech by John Derbyshire scheduled to take place at Williams.  The controversial right-winger had been invited by a student group, Uncomfortable Learning.

 

I agree with Jonathan Adler, who wrote on Reason Magazine's Volokh Conspiracy that Derbyshire “has written some contemptible things.” Had I been advising the Uncomfortable Learning at the time, I would have attempted to dissuade them from inviting him.

 

But a student group chose to invite him.  

 

Just as a number of student groups, including the Queer Student Union, chose to organize a panel built around a contemptible narrative, that of “Deconstructing Pinkwashing”, as the program was titled.  That panel took place without incident earlier today, Monday, March 4, 2024 in Griffin Hall.

 

Intersectional academics crafted the narrative of “pinkwashing” as a means to undermine LGBT support for the Jewish State.  These academics claim that promotion of Israel’s progressive record on LGBT rights only serves to legitimize its supposed “settler colonial” occupation of Palestine and apartheid-like oppression of Palestinian Arabs.

 

This academic narrative puts an intersectional ideology ahead of the rights – and even lives – not just of LGBT individuals living in the Jewish State, but also of those suffering under the rule of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA).  Neither Hamas nor the PA protects their rights. Hamas has executed gay men, including one of its military commanders, for expressing their sexuality. It is no wonder many LGBT Palestinians have sought asylum in Israel.

 

Contemptible though I find this narrative, I support the right of student groups to organize this panel.  And am pleased that it took place without disruption.

 

We at the Williams Free Speech Alliance believe the answer to contemptible speech is not the cancellation of speakers or panels, but better speech.

 

Students need to learn to respond to ideas, even controversial and contemptible ones, with thoughtful arguments.  The silencing of speech only serves to hinder the development of their critical faculties.


B. Daniel Blatt '85

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