By Matthew Hurtt at United Liberty
It has become commonplace for students — predominantly liberal ones — at universities to organize against speakers — predominantly conservative ones — in an effort to put pressure on the administration to disinvite those speakers or to have the speakers themselves withdraw.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) calls Commencement season “disinvitation season” for a reason, and they have tracked an alarming increase in the number of speakers who have been “disinvited” to speak to university students, particularly over the last 15 years. Just take a look at the findings from their 2014 report:
But in an interesting turn of events, students at America’s most liberal university — University of California at Berkeley — launched a change.org petition to disinvite notoriously liberal comic and HBO show host Bill Maher.
This author believes speakers of all political persuasions should be encouraged to address students and spark dialog on campuses, which are often touted as the “marketplace of ideas.” This author also realizes that most speakers who are invited to address students on university campuses trend liberal.
So, why are students protesting Bill Maher? In addition to being a liberal, Maher is also an atheist, and he has been critical of Islam, saying on more than a few occasions that “Islam is the problem, correct. All religions are the problem, but especially this one.”
One of the students who launched the petition is “is a member of the Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian Coalition,” according to a POLITICO report.
The petition reads, in part:
Bill Maher is a blatant bigot and racist who has no respect for the values UC Berkeley students and administration stand for. In a time where climate is a priority for all on campus, we cannot invite an individual who himself perpetuates a dangerous learning environment. Bill Maher’s public statements on various religions and cultures are offensive and his dangerous rhetoric has found its way into our campus communities.
Students labeled Maher’s criticism of Islam “hate speech,” a popular term among groups who attempt to silence those with whom they disagree.
At the time this post was published, the petition had nearly 2,400 signatures.
Maher is hardly representative of the types of speakers who have been successfully disinvited from commencement addresses. The FIRE notes the top 10 speakers:
All but one on their top 10 list is conservative or Republican.
No word yet on whether UC-Berkeley will officially rescind its invitation.