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Progressive politics, ideas & culture

July-August 2018

Dear free speech warriors: Faith Goldy isn’t your martyr

The far-right commentator is not a heretic—and we need to stop acting like she is

Tyler Hellard

Illustration by Alexei Vella.

Dear Free Speech Warriors,

Socrates had ideas—about life and government and religion—and he liked to express them to anyone willing to listen. Or who just happened to be standing nearby. He was tried, convicted, and killed for this behaviour.

Faith Goldy has ideas—about life and government and religion—and she likes to express them to anyone willing to tune into her YouTube channel. Or who just happened to have her show up on their social media feeds. Someone pulled a fire alarm at a recent talk she was supposed to give at Wilfrid Laurier University.

One of these people was denied free speech and one was not, which is to say, Faith Goldy isn’t Socrates. Faith Goldy is not a heretic. You really need to stop acting like she’s a martyr and that her free-speech rights were in any way violated.

The claim that free speech in Canada is under imminent threat is specious and leans on a handful of anecdotes, like the one that made Lindsay Shepherd—the woman who invited Goldy to Laurier to speak in the first place—a free-speech darling. She was sanctioned for showing a Jordan Peterson (don’t get me started on that guy) debate to her class. The university didn’t handle it well and later apologized. It happened. It wasn’t a good look for anyone involved, but to hold this up as proof that Canadian schools are overrun by politically motivated enemies of freedom is not only silly, it ignores the rich history of questionable but emphatic campus politics. You also end up defending some spectacularly awful people with spectacularly terrible ideas.

Let’s be clear: Goldy’s intellectual contributions include her reciting “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children” while giggling, then casually wondering “Is that bad?” Even Shepherd doesn’t try to defend Goldy’s views. She wasn’t invited to Laurier for a robust discussion on race or immigration; she was explicitly invited because the things she says are “unpopular.” I’d argue her views are actually more popular than most of us should be comfortable with, but even if that weren’t true, popularity seems like a bad measure for ideas worthy of intellectual inquiry and the people who should present them. The suggestion that all ideas should be equally presented and engaged with seems reasonable, but surely there’s some kind of barrier to entry. And while defining that barrier might be tricky, I have to hope it’s well above the woman who was too odious and toxic for the far-right Rebel Media to continue employing.

When you say that all ideas are worth consideration, it implies you aren’t wildly discerning. It doesn’t tell me you’re all for engaging with every idea; it tells me you don’t spend a lot of time considering them at all. Putting Goldy on stage at a respected institute of higher learning gives her credibility she doesn’t deserve. She puts that on her resumé and uses it to find more speaking gigs. This is a person who should be almost entirely ignored and by suggesting she’s been wronged because someone pulled a fire alarm, you’re only helping elevate and spread her problematic beliefs. University is where young people get to try on ideas to see how they fit (I confess: I experimented a bit with libertarianism as a 19-year-old), but that doesn’t mean white nationalism needs its own runway show.

Goldy can exercise her right to free speech by holding and speaking abhorrent opinions. Shepherd can exercise her right to free speech by inviting whoever she wants to Laurier. Protesters can exercise their free speech by protesting the invited person. You can exercise your free speech by saying the protesters are wrong and actively hurting democracy. And I can exercise my free speech by saying you’re an idiot. This is free speech in action. The system: it (sort of) works. And until someone hands Faith Goldy a vial of hemlock and says “Drink,” you should stop tilting at windmills.

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