Continuing the nationwide YAL movement in support of the critical need to defend free speech, the growing YAL chapter at the University of Pittsburgh held the campus debut of Can We Take a Joke? The event attracted a crowd of viewers primarily from Pitt Students for Liberty and Pitt College Republicans. The enthusiastic students came out to watch the highly informative and extremely entertaining documentary detailing the struggles which comedians have endured by practicing their craft in environments often hostile towards free speech.
Perhaps the most intriguing lesson was the distinction between one’s First Amendment rights and one’s right to free speech. An evolution has occurred in America from governmental censorship to societal censorship. Once an individual with ideas that may be deemed offensive observes the persecution of others with unpopular thoughts, the chilling effect may act upon him. That individual may be silent to avoid the oppression that results from the expression of disliked views.
These unfortunate trends are in no way alien to Pitt’s extremely leftist campus. Less than three months ago, protesters attempted to shout down conservative journalist Milo Yiannopoulos in an effort to censor views that differed from their own. To read how the triggered students reacted with claims of how the “hate speech” “traumatized” them prompting them to claim that “so many people in that room were in danger,” one can read the article “The Dying Free Speech on College Campuses” on yaliberty.org.*
By the night’s end, libertarians and conservatives were united in a shared passion to defend every individual’s right to self-expression, a fundamental liberty upon which America was founded nearly two-and-a-half centuries ago. Mankind must never stifle its call to liberty. To be human is to be free, and to be free is to be liberated from all bonds of oppression whether imposed by state or society.