When Advocacy Alienates Audiences

Recently, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) hosted its summer conference. During the conference, Mark Schierbecker writes for The College Fix, students spoke about how particularly strident advocacy tends to alienate an audience.

FIRE’s legislative and policy director, Joseph Cohn, commented during the conference that “protesters have a right to decide their own tone and level of discourse, but their success will ultimately be determined by their choice of a proportionate response.”

This is an important distinction. Antagonistic speech may be protected, but it is unlikely to be effective in the absence of civility. Furthermore, the right to freedom of speech does not come with the right to prevent others from speaking through your conduct.

Discordant protests, those designed to disrupt or “no-platform” a speaker, are particularly unfortunate because they stifle the freedom of expression of those who hold dissenting opinions.

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