Free speech must be (al­most) ab­so­lute: Saad

Regina Leader-Post - - CITY+REGION - ASH­LEY MARTIN amartin@post­media.com twit­ter.com/LPAsh­leyM

Gad Saad is Jewish and em­i­grated from Le­banon due to re­li­gious per­se­cu­tion, yet he sup­ports free­dom of speech for Holo­caust de­niers.

That’s how com­mit­ted he is to an open di­a­logue, some­thing he says is be­ing lost in the western world.

Saad is sched­uled to speak Monday at 7:30 p.m. at the Univer­sity of Regina Ed­u­ca­tion Au­di­to­rium on “forces that im­pede the free and ra­tio­nal ex­change of ideas.”

“I sup­port the right of grotesque, di­a­bol­i­cal peo­ple say­ing that the Holo­caust and any­thing that I might have ex­pe­ri­enced is a hoax. Why? Be­cause that’s what free­dom of speech is. It’s the right for peo­ple to be id­iots, to be wrong,” said Saad, a mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sor at Mon­treal’s Con­cor­dia Univer­sity and the Canada Re­search Chair in evo­lu­tion­ary be­havioural sciences and Dar­winian con­sump­tion.

There are only two ex­cep­tions to “ab­so­lute” free­dom of speech, Saad said. The first is us­ing words to di­rectly in­cite vi­o­lence against other peo­ple. The sec­ond is de­fam­ing or li­belling some­one.

Those cri­te­ria aside, it is “dan­ger­ous” to de­cide what other peo­ple can and can’t say.

That’s what hap­pened last month, as Saad was set to be part of a panel at Toronto’s Ry­er­son Univer­sity, can­celled in protest of two speak­ers: Faith Goldy, a for­mer Rebel Me­dia con­trib­u­tor, and Jor­dan Peter­son, a pro­fes­sor who has re­fused to use stu­dents’ pre­ferred gen­der pro­nouns.

The panel dis­cus­sion topic was “the sti­fling of free speech on univer­sity cam­puses.”

“I guess the irony was lost on the peo­ple who shut us down that that event was sti­fled,” Saad said.

Saad counts him­self as nei­ther right nor left po­lit­i­cally, but “a clas­si­cally lib­eral guy.” He said the po­lit­i­cal left drives most of academia, which can be detri­men­tal.

“As a stu­dent, what you’d like to de­velop is your abil­ity to crit­i­cally think, to an­a­lyze dif­fer­ent po­si­tions and then form an in­formed opinion,” Saad said. “But if most of the pro­fes­sors tend to be al­most ex­clu­sively linked to one par­tic­u­lar po­lit­i­cal ide­ol­ogy, then you are re­mov­ing the in­tel­lec­tual di­ver­sity that is needed, es­pe­cially in a univer­sity.”

Saad said he has re­ceived emails from stu­dents afraid to ex­press an un­pop­u­lar opinion lest they be os­tra­cized or re­ceive a fail­ing grade.

“Re­ally we’re pretty much like North Korea at this point,” Saad said. “I mean, peo­ple are walk­ing around afraid that some­one might find out the dark, dark se­cret that they pre­ferred Trump over Hil­lary Clin­ton.

“You could have a mil­lion very, very good rea­sons to dis­like Trump, and I would un­der­stand prob­a­bly all of them. But is it re­ally a good idea for pro­fes­sors and for stu­dents to be walk­ing around fear­ful …? Is this the type of in­tel­lec­tual en­vi­ron­ment that we want?”

Saad said if peo­ple dis­agree with an idea, they should “fight them with bet­ter ideas.”

“Be com­mit­ted to the truth, bat­tle oth­ers peace­fully through di­a­logue, through de­bate, through sci­ence, and then hope­fully the bet­ter ideas win,” he said.

“But what we’re see­ing to­day is there is a group of peo­ple that get to de­cide whether Gad Saad is al­lowed to speak on cam­pus or not. And if peo­ple don’t see how dan­ger­ous that is, then I’m afraid we’ve al­ready lost the bat­tle.”

Gad Saad

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