I read an interesting report today. Apparently, “the dean of the University of Ottawa’s faculty of medicine has warned… faculty members against using their roles as educators to make “personal or demeaning attacks on celebrities or politicians.” Dr. Jacques Bradwejn also warned faculty against expressing “politically charged sentiment” in social media accounts that identify them as a member of the university’s faculty of medicine.”
What’s interesting about this report is that it doesn’t reveal the content of the speech that the dean is trying to suppress. Would the content of the suppressed speech matter to you? For many people, the answer is yes!
Suppose, for example, that the dean is trying to suppress anti-Islamic statements by professors. Would that make it all right with you? Or would you object? Or what if he was trying to suppress criticism of Donald Trump? Would you be for or against his measures?
Or what would you think if the dean was trying to suppress criticism of politicians who support abortion law reform? Would that make it all right?
My point here is that if you value freedom in its own right you will assess his measures without regard to whether or not the people whose freedom is being suppressed have views you like.
In making this point, I’m not asserting that there can never be circumstances where some restraint on freedom of expression might be justified. Can verbal expression sometimes amount to a trespass upon the freedom of others so as to justify restraint? Perhaps. For example, subjecting students in a classroom to personal political opinions unrelated to their studies might be considered an unjustified and unwilling theft of their time. Tweeting on your own time and in your own name, however, doesn’t seem very equivalent.
In any case, even if you disagree with those whose freedom is being suppressed, you should defend their freedom to the maximum extent. You might be the next to suffer penalty for expressing your thoughts aloud.
Here’s a link to the report:
University of Ottawa dean of medicine warns faculty against ‘politically charged sentiment’