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TPUSA has a right to free speech but not attention

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TPUSA has a right to free speech but not attention

Carrington Tatum

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Turning Point USA is a nuisance to our campus community and only upholds a few of the university’s values.

National outlets, as well as The University Star, have documented that TPUSA has a mission to interfere with Student Government elections with no regard for fairness or integrity.

The group regularly shows its incongruence with Texas State’s values. Events such as “Come Out as Conservative” interrupts National Coming Out Day which should be a day of support for queer Bobcats. By trivializing centuries of shame and violence against LGBTQIA+ communities, TPUSA demonstrates how little respect it has for the uncontrollable identities of its fellow Bobcats. But, somehow, the organization has an expectation of support when the legitimacy of its members’ chosen beliefs is threatened.

However, even in its hypocrisy, TPUSA members deserve to freely express their ideas. Now, Turning Point is defending its right to free speech from Student Government—even though a few semesters ago their positions on the First Amendment were reversed.

TPUSA was one of many conservative groups that backed deposed Student Government President Connor Clegg when he demonstrated his disdain for the First Amendment by calling for the defunding of The University Star, based on an opinions column that offended him.

Student Government’s resolution to ban TPUSA cites its core concern as safety, a sound sentiment. However, to make that argument is to say that Turning Point’s speech is linked to a hostile environment. Therefore, in order to make the campus environment less hostile for marginalized students, you must remove its speech. But constitutional values demand the free exchange of ideas, even if they’re hostile.

Turning Point largely disseminates misinformation, a practice learned from its Director of Communications Candace Owens. She recently told Congress the Republican Party never used racism to draw votes away from southern Democrats in the 1960s, contending with decades of work by historians.

But until TPUSA calls for immediate lawless action, it cannot be banned for its speech. It’s better argued that university administrators should investigate claims of harassment and threats to the spirit of academic freedom for professors placed on TPUSA’s watchlist, as well as former Student Government President Brooklyn Boreing’s campaign violations.

The U.S. Supreme Court has historically made it a priority to keep the exchange of ideas and information as free as possible, likely because freedom of thought is the foundation of U.S. democracy.

Turning Point mostly contributes refuse to the on-campus conversation, but it has a right to do so. Student Government President Allison Castillo recognized this with a rightful veto of the legislation, but the Senate should recognize this as well.

With this in mind, it’s also worth noting the First Amendment guarantees protections of speech specifically from governmental bodies. Turning Point USA has no expectation of an audience from student activists. Citizen’s decide what platforms are worthy of an audience and consequently, a right to be heard.

Student organizers should be careful of the methods by which they combat the rhetoric of TPUSA. De-platforming can silence a group, but it costs the same protections that defend the platforms for civil rights activists. Additionally, accosting members with profanity and pejoratives against their physical appearances are the tools of the intolerant and only helps them paint themselves as victims.

The middle road is to never amplify TPUSA’s rhetoric by bringing it to a larger platform than their own. And when their misinformation does make it to the ecosystem, never let it be published uncontested without counter information and context.

Furthermore, we usually only report on conflicts between Student Government and student groups, but The University Star’s motto is, “Defending the First Amendment since 1911.” We, as an editorial board, would not be holding true to our purpose if we stayed silent on this subject.

We welcome letters to the editor from members of our community in response to this editorial and the state of the campus.

As a campus community, Texas State should learn from the mistakes of the previous semesters, which starts with understanding and internalizing all parts of the First Amendment indiscriminately.

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Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act states that "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider" (47 U.S.C. § 230). This means The University Star is protected as a platform and cannot be held liable for user-submitted comments. Additionally, The University Star retains CDA immunity while editors reserve the right to take down comments for any reason. Editors also reserve the right to refuse to take down comments that are not profane or libelous. By submitting comments to The University Star, commenters agree they have read and understand this policy.

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Defending the First Amendment since 1911
TPUSA has a right to free speech but not attention