Canada’s Own Che

Bruce Bawer is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center and the author of “While Europe Slept” and “Surrender.” His book "The Victims' Revolution: The Rise of Identity Studies and the Closing of the Liberal Mind" is just out from Broadside / Harper Collins.


“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.”

– Robert Frost, “Mending Wall”

 

It’s a small case, really, at a college you may not even have heard of, and involving not a mass movement of PC screwballs but, really, just one benighted individual. And yet it seems to say so much.

The place: Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. In an effort to prove “that campus free speech was alive and well,” members of a group called Carleton Students for Liberty put up a “Free Speech Wall” – basically a wooden plank covered with paper – in a heavily trafficked location and invited students to pick up one of the felt markers available at the site and scribble an opinion. “What we wanted to promote was competition of ideas, rather than ‘if I disagree with you I’ve got to censor you,’” Ian CoKehyeng, founder of the student group, told the National Post.

It didn’t last long. Within hours, the wall had been torn down by a student, Arun Smith, who called it “another in a series of acts of violence” against gay rights and insisted that “not every opinion is valid.” It was not immediately clear what Smith was objecting to, exactly. He called himself an anti-homophobic activist, but the only explicit references to homosexuality on the wall were positive ones – though there was one thumbs-up for “traditional marriage.” Smith, a seventh-year undergraduate with a major in human rights and a minor in sexuality, explained on his action on Twitter by saying that free speech is an “illusory concept” and that “not every opinion is valid, nor deserving of expression.” He also posted on Facebook a staggeringly self-important and self-dramatizing open letter. Headlined “President Runte, I Tore Down that Wall” (Roseann Runte is president of Carleton), and addressed to “the Carleton community,” it began as follows:

This evening, acting alone, and in an act of forceful resistance, I removed the Carleton Students for Liberty’s “free speech wall” from the Unicentre Galleria.  I take full and sole responsibility for this action, I understand that there will likely be consequences, and I am prepared for the imposition of those consequences, however unjust they might be.

Smith went on to characterize his action as a “response to injustice” and a rejection of “buzzwords like ‘free speech’.” Instead of the “free speech wall,” which he considered an “act…of violence,”  Smith called for “safe(r) spaces,” and explained that “there can be no safe(r) spaces where there is potential for…the expression of hatred.” Describing “the area around where the ‘wall’ stood” as “a war zone,” he said that “we are at war, in a war for our own survival, where to exist, we resist, and to resist, we exist.” Much of his open letter was pseudo-poetic and enigmatic, as was his closing flourish:

The time for platitudes is at its dusk, and the time for solidarity with our words and our actions is at its dawn. It is with this sentiment in mind that I take responsibility.

Obviously this is a guy who has mixed up the campus of Carleton College with pre-revolutionary Cuba and himself with Che Guevara. Or something like that. Yet Smith (or, as he styles himself on Facebook, Arün Séamus Surinder Smith) is no lone nut. “DIRECT ACTION GETS THE GOODS!” wrote an admiring friend on his Facebook page. “Great day to do it also good sir. Kudos and respect,” wrote another. A third: “Solidarity, my friend.” A fourth: “Woohoo!!! Students for Liberty sounds like some heinous shit, way to go!!! Solidarity and love and hugs forever!!!” A fifth: “H-core. Well played my friend.” A sixth: “this is pretty epic! I’m gonna share this! lots of respect.”

I dwell on this silly young man’s actions because they’re such a spectacular example of what happens when you marinate too long in what passes, on North American campuses these days, for higher education in the humanities and social sciences. Consider this: Smith is gay. In his lifetime, same-sex marriage has become the law in Canada. Changes that would have been unimaginable to gays a half-century ago have taken place, and none of them would have occurred except for the open exchange of ideas. You would think that Smith, who at the end of his open letter identifies himself as, among other things, the coordinator of the “Challenge Homophobia and Transphobia Campaign,” would understand the vital role of free speech in these achievements and would, accordingly, cherish and defend this freedom for everyone, including his ideological opponents.

But no. Smith has been brainwashed into the academic victimhood mentality; he’s learned from postmodern guiding lights like Paulo Freire and Frantz Fanon that speech can be violence and violence can be speech, and that to be a proper student is to be a revolutionary; and he knows that, for a member of an approved victim group, any action against members of officially recognized oppressor groups is a bold act of resistance. He imagines himself a victim; and yet when you’re capable of saying that “not every opinion is valid” and of tearing down a wall on which other people have written their opinions, you’re speaking not the victim’s but the tyrant’s language.

As for his being bold, the facts are as follows. In today’s academy, writing or saying something that somebody, somewhere, might construe, however unreasonably, as racist or sexist can get a student expelled and destroy his reputation for life. But if you tear down a publicly posted statement that you regards as antigay, you’re home free. And Smith knows this. Even as he fancies himself a victim, he also knows on some level that, on campus, as a member of an approved victim group, he enjoys a certain power. He feels that power. (You can see it in the cocky grin and mind-blowingly obnoxious attitude he displayed last Wednesday in a TV interview with Ezra Levant.)  And he’s as prepared as any dictator to use that power to crush ideas he doesn’t like. Regrettably, this escapade has probably guaranteed that when this fool finally graduates, plenty of his ideological soulmates will be standing in line to offer him jobs in which he’ll be able to do just that.

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  • David F.

    So what he's really saying is that as a seventh year undergrad with a major in Human Rights and a minor in Sexuality, this is all he has to look forward to doing,or maybe work at Burger King.

    • dickymo johnston

      He's in the "pre-welfare" program…

    • John

      It just goes to show that homosexuality is a sickness. If he exhibited no dystonia he would have graduated by now. He could be afraid to work. But an alternate route would be to enter grad school & get more degrees before landing a job at a left of center think tank, a leftists writer or journalist.

      How many times has he changed his major. If he was in student housing how many times did his roommates move out?

      I have no doubt that Smith is intelligent or could be intelligent. I have no doubt that he could get a degree in say physics & be knowledgeable in the material. But in his present state he would be lucky to end up as messed up as Mr Brock of Media Matters.

      Part of his bad grades & such is due to social ostracism. Without it he would do better, but I do not think he would be whole.

    • Mary Sue

      with a name spelling like "Arun" you know his parents are hippies. This kid was poisoned from the womb, I tell ya!

  • Richard

    Hopefully there are no Book Depository buildings in the locality.
    This guy is a just a confused unhappy idiot who has channeled his frustration into violence and hate.

  • CurmudgyOneJr

    He is obviously full of fear of the real world and cannot allow it to put even a toe in the doorway of his academic cocoon. I would pity him but for his misuse of the dubious power derived from modern victimhood. He should be spanked with theboard he tore down.

  • Infovoyeur

    It's those jolly smarmy comments in favor, from his "comrades," which ask the question of How Many More of the same sentiment, are out there… Recommendation: a refresher course (or a fresher…) on Free Speech 101, just the factualities please, for all entering freshpersons in higher ed. Yes even in U.S.A. where "we have the First Amendment" (and many in Europe wish they had…)

  • denis

    Time for Carlton University to boot this Wack – a – Doodle self righteous idiotic idealist out of the classroom. I have never heard of a tenured student, seven years in university and nothing to show for his studies, no degree or real specialty. This guy could not live outside of a environment that was not funded by government Kick him to the curb Carlton.

    • Mary Sue

      Unfortunately, Carlton U isn't any different than Berserkley in this regard.

  • john Stone

    He can be for whatever he wants on his own time and his own dime, and more power to him. The problem is that the Canadians are spending money to produce this outcome.

  • pyeatte

    This nut is the perfect example of a grand "meaningless gesture" – "seventh-year undergraduate with a major in human rights and a minor in sexuality". Who is paying for this folly? the crime is allowing someone to waste his life like this.

    • Mary Sue

      well he said to Ezra that he has student loans and the reason he was taking so long was that he was working part of that time. Working at what, not sure. Probably Starbucks Barista.

      He mentioned being willing to have his own speech censored if, among other things, it was "triggering". Now, people outside the Rape Crisis crowd or the mental health expert crowd might not know this, but "triggering" means setting off a person that has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, often reducing them to a weeping, incapacitated, fetal-positioned ball of sadness and/or rage. And apparently "triggering" someone is The Worst Thing Ever.

      • pyeatte

        Now I know what "triggering" means in this context.. Tks.

  • Mary Sue

    Ezra Levant talked to this guy on Sun News Network sometime around 2 weeks ago. I think I need to explain "Safe(r) spaces", for the un-initiated.

    Safe spaces are a liberal Identity Politics Buzzword that basically means, speech is censored to avoid "oppressing" (that's "hurting people's feelings", to me and you) other minorities. The Marxist dialectic on Oppression has become so convoluted that it's now "oppressive" to insult someone, and it is also "oppressive" to disagree with them if they don't want to hear it.

    Radical Feminists often champion the cause of "Safe Spaces for Womyn", and by this they mean the exclusion of MEN. But it's not just visibly obvious males, which they deem as oppressive simply on principle (and judging by the amount of Rapes in Occupy Wall Street, I guess I don't blame them). They also exclude Male-to-Female transsexuals, whether pre-op or post-op. There's kind of a civil war going on among the Left, between Radical Feminists (Radfems for short), who argue (suspiciously like a conservative religious person) that Trans women (male originally) are not real women because they do not possess a uterus on the one hand; and the Trans women themselves who argue that body parts don't define them, their state of mind does. So you'll hear of really nasty fights because of the exclusion. The radfems will argue that women are oppressed and discriminated BECAUSE they can have babies. They will even go to the lengths of banning both men (whether "feminist sympathizer" or not) and trans women from their forums and blogs in the name of Safe Spaces.

    Basically all this means, when you boil it down, is "Safe spaces" become a circle-j*ck of uniform ideas and opinions, with no dissent allowed whatsoever, where no Oppressive Privileged Men can come in and rain on their parade or burst their cocoons.

    But it is not up to Arun to enforce a "Safe(r) Space" on University property. He could do so on a forum he owns or moderates, but not property he has no legal control over. Much is made by people like him about how "Safe(r) spaces are necessary to prevent the silencing of (minority) voices", which of course, necessitates the silencing of everybody else. It's just an excuse to silence dissenters, and they try to make it seem sympathetic and legitimate. It's just tyranny cloaked in Compassion.

    • john Stone

      My conclusion is that the whole effort to extend the methods of the natural sciences into the social sciences has been a failure and a damaging one. The problem is that there is never genuine disinterest in the social sciences. The social sciences have gone from being incompetent in the old days to being radical now. Regrettably the college degree gives enough status to the graduates that they end up in a position to effect culture.

      • Mary Sue

        Yeah, it's pretty much all 24/7 liberal koolaid drinking.

  • FPF

    Arun Smith really needs a speech, oh, wait, isn't that violence? No, it's just a speech, "POW", wow a really powerful speech indeed!?! Maybe next time the speech can be done in a safe space so Arun Smith can really feel safe.

  • US Muslim

    Little homo sissy punk…you want a war? You'll get one. Be careful what you wish for. Most people out here in the West won't stand up for liberty and morality…what a lot of people don't seem to realize is that the two go together. Destroy one and the other will follow. It's almost time for me to use the gifts from God in order to revive and strengthen Western Civilization…and little homo punks will be required to crawl back into your stinking closets.

  • Ghostwriter

    I'd be watching that guy if I were the police chef in Ottawa.

    • Mary Sue

      Unfortunately the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) are so full of leftist politicians, they won't bother.

    • Rev. Roy

      My sentiments exactly. He should be watched by a gaggle of phsyciatrists and phsycoanalists from inside an institution so they can learn where they went wrong in their great human experiments. He is one of the many "on-the-edge" nutbars who could be the next mass killer. He is also a prime candidate for Islamic jihadist training as he has no clue as to which way is up.
      Most of these "types" get to a point that they desperately require attention and public notice that develops into an insatiable desire for media "spotlighting" which is what drives them to horrific acts.
      (How's that for grade 10 "common sense". Somebody better be watching him.
      Rev. Roy….<><