By Ben Goldberger —
Last week two men stood outside the Student Activity Center next to a large picture of a bloodied infant and posters displaying religious propaganda to express their opinions about issues such as abortion and homosexuality.
One of the men said, “Men and women are equal, but women have a different purpose.” When asked by a student in front of the group what women’s purpose is, he confidently stated to serve God and her husband.
While these ideas may seem too controversial to be spread legally on campus, they technically are. This is explained by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky.
“[People] have the right to speak out, hand out flyers and petitions, and wear expressive clothing in school-as long as [they] don’t disrupt the functioning of the school or violate school policies that don’t hinge on the message expressed,” their website said. In these situations, the protesters have to register with the Dean of Students to be approved to be on campus spreading their beliefs on a certain date and time.
These men had gone through the correct protocol through the school to legally share their ideology.
The natural reaction to this type of situation is for a group of spectators to form because it is alarming to see someone yelling offensive and misogynistic ideas.
That being said, forming a group around these people spewing such opinions is one of the worst things that can be done in these situations.
Social Work master student Aaron Spalding arrived in a clown costume to both counter-protest and mock them.
“The Supreme Court has said the correct way to deal with free speech you don’t agree with, such as theirs, is to either ignore it, which would be the best option,” he said. “Or, mock it.”
All these propagandists want is an audience to listen to their extremist views. By forming a group around them and interacting with them, students are providing just that. There is no chance that their minds will be changed from a conversation with a student. The best thing to do in these situations is to stick to the rule all young kids learn:
Don’t talk to strangers.
These are not two family relatives or distant friends. These are strangers sharing their political views to get a reaction. By ignoring what they are saying, they might relocate. They cannot succeed in spreading their views if nobody listens to them.
This type of situation should be handled similar to how one would handle a bully. The website GoodTherapy said, “Reacting negatively to their behavior may signal to the bully that they are having an effect, propping up their perceived position of power.” When protesters get a reaction, they receive validation they are doing their job of spreading their beliefs.
Act like they don’t exist, and they will eventually get tired of never reaching their goal.
As a public university in a major city, these events are likely to happen again. In these situations, the power is the students to give. Students can decide to interact with these propagandists and give them the power they are seeking, or resist the urge to shoot down these offensive beliefs and keep the power away from them.
Don’t take the bait, no matter how tempting it is.