What’s the Tea on Ben Shapiro Coming to BU?

If one thing has divided the student body into a heated debate this semester, it has been Ben Shapiro’s upcoming visit to Boston University. There’s been a LOT of talk about free speech vs. hate speech, if he deserves to have a platform, and if our tuition dollars should be paying for his security. From in-person forums to back-and-forth arguments in the BU Facebook meme group, it can be hard to know what to make of the situation. Here’s a bit of a breakdown on who Ben Shapiro is, and why people don’t like him, so you can make an informed decision about attending the event.

The first question I’m sure you’re asking yourself is “Who?” Ben Shapiro is best described as a conservative talking head. He owns the website The Daily Wire, which is a conservative news outlet famous for posting misleading headlines and fake news. Shapiro is also famous for touring college campuses and making speeches. These speeches are funded by the Young America’s Foundation, a nonprofit on many campuses that organize conservative lectures (which is funded by the famous Koch family).

Okay, so Shapiro just seems like a conservative speaking his mind. What’s the big deal? Why is everyone so upset? Well, he has also said a number of problematic things, such as calling being transgender a “mental disorder” and saying “Jews who [voted] for Obama are, by and large, Jews In Name Only.” This merely scratches the surface of his problematic viewpoints and positions. You can read a full list Shapiro himself wrote of all the controversial things he has said here. Just keep in mind this is hosted on his website and therefore has the possibility for bias.

These quotes are why some BU students have labeled Shapiro as promoting hate speech and why they do not feel he should have a platform on our campus. The main argument against his protesters is that he has the right to free speech

Here’s a crash course on free speech… The First Amendment is what grants us the right that “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech.” This means that you can say anything (of course with some caveats like you can’t make death threats) and the government cannot prosecute you for it. This is an important distinction. While the government cannot prosecute you, private entities are allowed to prohibit speech on their property. Technically, BU could prohibit Shapiro from speaking on campus without violating any laws or rights. The other side of the argument is that prohibiting Shapiro from campus goes against the spirit of free speech, and that a university is an important place to share ideas and experience viewpoints that perhaps students haven’t listened to before.

That’s the scoop on Ben Shapiro. If you’re interested, on Wednesday he’ll be giving a lecture entitled “America wasn’t built on slavery, it was built on freedom,” or you can join groups protesting his visit.

 

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