By Donny West
Florida was on high alert early in October when Richard Spencer visited the University of Florida. A state of emergency was declared, and there was a great deal of anxiety throughout the state. Before the end of the day, three men would be charged with attempted murder.
With all the turmoil throughout the nation, one might start to wonder if certain issues could find their way to us. Are all ideologies welcome on PSC’s campus? Are we free to voice our views without fear of being attacked? What caused all the anger and hatred?
Biology department head Dr. Michael Allen would agree that, to a certain degree, free speech is under attack. However, as far as he’s aware, that hasn’t made its way to PSC yet.
“It’s doubtful that something like that could happen here.” According to Dr. Allen, the growing support for authoritarianism is troubling, but not surprising. It’s always been there, he said, and has been enabled by the current political climate. Dr. Allen’s solution to the problem is simple: fix our culture.
In the past, he says, we had a more wholesome society. However, today he sees a society more focused on the bad, which has created a culture of anger, hatred, and divisiveness. In the eyes of Dr. Allen, the societal shift and the current political climate has turned Americans against each other, paving the way for the rise of the likes of Richard Spencer.
Dr. Douglas Mock, social studies professor at PSC, says that, to an extent, both Spencer and the protestors are protected under the Constitution. On Spencer’s end, he can say what he wants provided he doesn’t get violent.
“Certain types of free speech have legs, such as obscenity and incitement to violence,” says Dr. Mock. And the protestors can protest as much as they want provided they don’t resort to violence. Known for holding debates in his classes, Dr. Mock believes open discussion is welcome at PSC, with students generally being open-minded and respectful.
-Dr. Douglas Mock
Dr. Mock blames the rising popularity of authoritarianism on division through misinformation. He sees no baseline of facts anymore, with multiple biased news sources reporting “facts that aren’t really facts.” The solution, he believes, is to reorient ourselves and reprioritize free speech.
“Good things flow from free speech.” According to Dr. Mock, the loss of our urgency to protect free speech has enabled a rise of authoritarian ideologies such as Communism and Fascism that had been things of the past.
Clay Kimmons, a PSC student and self-described centrist, believes that politics should be about coming together. However, he sees both sides as promoting violence. Although he disagrees that authoritarianism is making a comeback, he has noticed that we’ve become more accepting of radical views. The fault, in his opinion, lies with the people. However, he sees it entirely possible for the people to reject their preconceived biases and get along.
Though the state of the nation is frightening, PSC appears safe from the division and violence seen in places like Berkeley. The college years are meant for exposure to different ideologies and cultures while one grows as a person.
According to our students and teachers, PSC does it right.
However, the rest of the nation can’t say the same. It’s evident throughout that freedom of speech is no longer viewed as a priority needing to be protected. On both sides we see direct attacks on free speech, with the fringe of the right wing advocating a crackdown on civil rights that borderlines on state sanctioned Christianity, and the left ruining lives and careers over jokes.
This is not the American way, and we as a nation can do better than this.