It’s Time to Refresh Our Tree of Liberty
On August 22, 2017, Dr. Gad Saad was scheduled to speak at Toronto’s Ryerson University…
In addition to the 56-year-old behavioral scientist, three others were planned for the event – including University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson. And what was the topic of discussion?
“The Stifling of Free Speech on University Campuses.”
But then, less than a week before the event, organizers abruptly pulled the plug based on “safety concerns.” A spokesman matter-of-factly told Canada’s National Post at the time…
After a thorough security review, the University has concluded that Ryerson is not equipped to provide the necessary level of public safety for the event to go forward. In light of recent events, Ryerson University is prioritizing campus safety.
By “recent events,” the spokesman actually meant threats of violence from antifa groups.
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A protest called “No Fascists in Our City!” allegedly worked with members of Ryerson’s student government to force the event to be canceled. Protest organizers said they didn’t want Nazis, white supremacists, anti-Semites, Islamophobes, and transphobes in their city.
The perfect irony of shutting down an event on a college campus titled, “The Stifling of Free Speech on College Campuses” was apparently lost on the idiotic protesters.
And it’s particularly ironic in this case because Saad is a Jewish man who literally fled from hate as a young child… leaving his home country of Lebanon in the mid-1970s as an 11-year-old to escape a civil war. Another speaker at the event, Dr. Oren Amitay, is a Jewish man married to a Japanese woman… And his sister and adopted brother are both gay.
Yet as part of this planned event, these folks were accused of being racist peddlers of hate.
Although the event was ultimately rescheduled, one of the speakers was uninvited. And that caused even more death threats against Saad, this time from another side…
You see, the people who supported the original event thought Saad caused the disinvitation (which isn’t true, according to him). And they made threats on his life in retaliation.
Saad, who is also a marketing professor at Concordia University in Montreal, said his life was turned upside down… He required constant protection, including security personnel escorting him around the Concordia campus, where he mostly stayed locked in his office.
Saad recounted this story for a recent episode of the Stansberry Investor Hour podcast. During our 49-minute conversation, he talked about the “endless death threats” just like this that he has gotten “from various groups” over the years… simply for speaking his mind.
Through the years, Saad has paid for his views in other ways, too…
For example, Saad told me that some of his colleagues send private e-mails in support of his views… but then refuse to associate with him in public for fear of retribution by students and other faculty members.
Think about that… These other professors won’t speak their minds because they’re worried about the potential for (sometimes violent and often career-altering) payback.
Saad grew up in Beirut and survived a civil war… He clearly has thicker skin than most academics.
By now, I hope you’re wondering what’s so horrible about Saad’s beliefs and speeches that cause him to suffer through death threats from protesters and ostracization from his peers.
Saad is an outspoken critic of what he calls “idea pathogens”…
And as he explained during our interview, he finds that most of these so-called idea pathogens are held by the political Left.
(Before I go any further, let me be very clear… I’m not here to support or criticize the Left or the Right. Frankly, it’s all the same to me. Neither side will ever get my loyalty until they make shrinking the government their No. 1 priority… And I’m not holding my breath.)
Saad just published a new book earlier this month called, The Parasitic Mind: How Infectious Ideas Are Killing Common Sense. And it’s certainly chockful of controversial topics…
The idea pathogens addressed in Saad’s book include postmodernism… radical feminism… transgender activism… science denialism… and the tendency to frame every issue as an “either/or” proposition (a malady he calls “epistemological dichotomania”). He has also been critical of Islam on occasion, and suspects that is the cause of some of the death threats.
And the attempted suppression of Saad’s freedom to speak at Ryerson is hardly unique…
In The Parasitic Mind, he reported the findings of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (“FIRE”) – a non-profit organization founded in 1999 to focus on protecting free speech on college campuses in the U.S.
According to Saad, FIRE documented 192 “disinvitation efforts” (attempts to stop invited speakers) at American universities from 2000 through 2014. In that span, disinvitations were successful as often as 44% of the time… and they were three times more likely to occur if the speaker is on the political right.
This is ludicrous no matter which way you lean politically, though…
Threatening or committing violence against someone simply because of their speech is an act that violates the very foundation of human life on Earth.
Peterson, Saad’s friend and another speaker at the Ryerson event, identified the importance of speech in his landmark book, 12 Rules For Life (which I highly recommend, by the way)…
At the beginning of time, according to the great Western tradition, the Word of God transformed chaos into Being through the act of speech. It is axiomatic, within that tradition, that man and woman alike are made in the image of that God. We also transform chaos into Being, through speech…
To tell the truth is to bring the most habitable reality into Being… Truth reduces the terrible complexity of a man to the simplicity of his word, so that he can become partner, rather than enemy.
The beginning of Peterson’s quote refers to the Book of Genesis, which begins with God creating heaven and Earth. From that Bible verse…
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep… And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
In other words, speech brought order to chaos. We, too, bring order to chaos through our speech. Here’s my version, which I’ve written once or twice before…
The first civilized human was the caveman who decided to simply call his neighbor an S.O.B. instead of bashing his brains out with a rock.
Therefore, by definition, the person who threatens violence because he doesn’t like your views is anti-civilization.
Freedom of speech is a fundamental human right because life is impossible without it…
All forms of life speak in one way or another. In his novel, The Bear, author Andrew Krivak writes that all living things speak and that “they need it like they need air to breathe.”
Speech is the oxygen of civilization.
If we are not free to speak without fear of infringement against our person and property, we are not among civilized people… or at the very least, our society has become too infected with uncivilized people.
As Saad’s episode and the FIRE statistics show, this is no mere academic musing. It’s as real as the sound of your own voice…
Violent Assault on Speech
In places all too close to my front door, the world is becoming uncivilized…
I live 20 minutes from downtown Portland, Oregon. It’s a present-day American city where violence in the streets occurs nightly… and where, by all appearances, a man recently paid for his political and religious views with his life.
Michael Reinoehl, a self-described antifa supporter and frequent member of the Portland protests, admitted to murdering an unarmed supporter of President Trump named Aaron “Jay” Danielson.
In a TV interview a week later, the victim’s friend alleged that Reinoehl just came up from behind and killed Danielson… after someone in Reinoehl’s group yelled, “We got another right here, pull it out,” apparently meaning take out your gun and shoot this person because he’s one of “them.”
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In other words, the killer bashed his neighbor’s brains out instead of calling him an S.O.B.
This is not the “End of America” that Porter Stansberry talks about so frequently. That’s an economic and political phenomenon. This goes much deeper than that…
This is the End of Civilization as we know it.
For now, it’s admittedly writ rather small in the lives of the victim and his killer… but what do you think tomorrow will bring?
And what about all those disinvitations FIRE catalogued beginning two decades ago?
They’re often attempts to squelch freedom of speech through the threat of violence.
When violence is threatened and the intended victim backs down, the violence has effectively been perpetrated on the victim. “Don’t say [blank] or else,” is not an unambiguous proposition… It’s as anti-civilization as the cold-blooded murder of Aaron “Jay” Danielson.
As Peterson might put it, the “reality” in which you pay for your political or religious views with your life is not “the most habitable.” I would go a step further, adding that it becomes less and less habitable the longer such conditions prevail…
Ask anyone who has been a political prisoner for a decade or two if they’ve contemplated suicide, and you’ll understand exactly what I mean about the inhabitability of a world where speech is answered with violence. The same can be said for the countless folks who survived the violence of the Holocaust or who fled Nazi Germany.
Saad offered his own list of the non-negotiable elements of a civilized (he calls it “free and modern”) society in Chapter 3 of The Parasitic Mind…
I posit that the guaranteed right to debate any idea (freedom of speech and thought) coupled with a commitment to reason and science to test competing ideas (the scientific method) are what have made Western Civilization great.
The increasingly violent assault on speech is rooted in part on the pervasive primacy of emotion that has infected academia and flooded into the wider world – often via social media. That’s why we so often hear of some celebrity apologizing for hurting people’s feelings or getting fired for stating a controversial viewpoint.
We were once a nation of self-reliant people. Now it seems too many of us have become spineless pansies.
As part of his research for The Parasitic Mind, Gaad looked at a variety of university mottos…
He found 128 instances of the word “truth”… 46 of the word “wisdom”… 61 of the word “science”… and absolutely ZERO of the words “emotion” or “feeling.”
That’s exactly as it should be!
Universities are founded to pursue truth, not to aggrandize (much less protect) students’ emotions. And yet today, universities are worried enough about emotionally triggering students to offer them “safe spaces” where their feelings won’t get hurt.
If you wonder what’s going on in academia, that’s it right there…
You’re paying $100,000 or more so your kid can be protected from having his or her feelings hurt. That doesn’t exactly seem like the best way to get at the truth, does it?
No matter your views on war in general, or World War II in particular, we’re not exactly the same nation that stormed the beaches of Normandy 76 years ago.
Right or wrong, as Americans, we used to fight bad guys we believed were threatening our way of life and who were already at war against our allies. Now, a swath of our society – admittedly small right now, but who knows for how long – only fights against other Americans who speak their minds.
And I do want to make one financial connection here…
Speech is to civilization as money is to a modern economy.
The violent squelcher of speech infringes upon your person. And in a similar vein, the central banks and government collude to inflate the currency, infringing upon your property and person…
They’re essentially mandating that wage earners systematically be paid less value than they create in the market. All the while, asset price increases against the deteriorating currency treat the bankers and their friends very well.
Porter recently explained that “money is a promise”… And the promise is broken when the Federal Reserve prints too much of it – corrupting its value and making it impossible for wage earners to fully participate in economic growth.
After decades of such deterioration, whose origin most people simply don’t understand, people become frustrated – eventually enough to make violence an irresistible outlet.
This current situation reminds me of one specific line in Ayn Rand’s novel, The Fountainhead…
In the book, the protagonist – an architect named Howard Roark – proclaims during a courtroom speech, “We are approaching a world in which I cannot permit myself to live.”
I’ve always thought the character went too far with that statement…
In an earlier book by Rand, a novella called Anthem, the protagonist grabs his girlfriend and escapes a totalitarian nightmare to start their lives over in the wilderness. And that world is much worse than the one in The Fountainhead… So how could the better world be the one in which the guy can’t permit himself to live?
The inconsistency wouldn’t mean anything to me if Rand weren’t explicit about the connection between her writing and her philosophy.
I can’t imagine the world becoming a place “in which I cannot permit myself to live,” but I will say this about Roark’s statement…
The world in 2020 is already a place where my wife and I are planning for many worst-case scenarios…
Where might we go to permanently escape the nearby insanity and violence? Idaho? Montana?
In recent months, we’ve imagined many worst-case scenarios… and have begun preparing for all of them.
One of my wife’s biggest fears is a devastating earthquake. Hopefully, we’d survive a natural disaster in good enough condition to make our way to higher ground.
And another is, of course, violence coming to our door with no notice. If that happens, hopefully we can escape the threatening offenders… or if need be, I can keep a cool head and shoot straight.
But the scenario in which I cannot permit myself to live in this world is a place too deep and dark for me to even contemplate right now. And I hope it stays that way forever.
Remember, silence is golden unless it helps the anti-civilization crowd win.
Speak up. Tell the truth. Don’t let them win.
If you fear violent recrimination or ostracization for speaking up, I don’t blame you…
I’m the same way. But I’m no longer comfortable with my silence… I think it’s time for us to remember what Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers of our 244-year-old nation, said about liberty in a 1787 letter…
The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
Don’t misunderstand me… I’m not advocating the initiation of violence. I believe that’s wrong in all times and places. I’m speaking more metaphorically (though, like I said, if they bring it to my front door, I might have little choice but to shoot back)…
If liberty is a tree, civilization is the only forest where it can grow. And your voice is the soil, sunlight, and rain that makes that forest grow.
So again, I urge you… Speak up. Tell the truth. Don’t let them win.
Dan Ferris is the editor of Extreme Value, a monthly investment advisory that focuses on some of the safest and yet most profitable stocks in the market: great businesses trading at steep discounts. His work has been covered extensively in Barron’s and other respected news outlets.
He is also the host of the Stansberry Investor Hour podcast, where he provides listeners with weekly access to some of the best minds in business, investing, and political affairs… including leading political and financial icons like Jim Rogers, T. Boone Pickens, Dr. Ron Paul, and Glenn Beck.