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You Have the Right to Free Speech, Audience Not Included

Student protests, disinvited speakers, and cancelled debates have become commonplaces on college campuses. Do people who hold controversial or wrong views have a right to speak on college campuses?

Philosopher Bryan Van Norden, in a New York Times opinion article titled “The Ignorant Do Not Have a Right to an Audience,” argues that no, there is no such right to speak on college campuses. Is it right that stupid opinions are treated with the same respect as intelligent ones? Is it worth finding out what “both sides” of an issue are? These are some of the questions that Van Norden addresses—but there is more than one way in which to interpret his answers, and that is what makes this piece so interesting.

Two of the Ayn Rand Institute’s experts, Onkar Ghate and Steve Simpson, sat down to discuss this article at length, and among other questions they explored: Is Van Norden right when he says that “the ignorant do not have a right to an audience”? Is his general understanding of freedom of speech correct? Does he make a distinction between private property and public spaces as they pertain to free speech?

Watch the video to find out Onkar Ghate’s and Steve Simpson’s opinions about the good, the bad, and the mixed in the article, and to discover many other illuminating insights into the crucial issue of freedom of speech—a little-understood ideal that ARI has been championing for decades.

Audio download here:

Explore more on these topics: Free Speech, Culture and Society, Government, Foreign Policy, Objectivism.

Onkar Ghate

Onkar Ghate, Ph.D. in philosophy, is a senior fellow and chief content officer at the Ayn Rand Institute. A contributing author to many books on Rand’s ideas and philosophy, he is a senior editor of New Ideal.

Steve Simpson

Steve Simpson, a former constitutional litigator, was director of Legal Studies at the Ayn Rand Institute from 2013 to 2018. He is the editor of Defending Free Speech.

Agustina Vergara Cid

Agustina Vergara Cid, LL.B. and LL.M., is a junior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute.

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