It’s definitely extreme. Some say it’s a call for genocide.
Michael Knowles has publicly stated that “transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely.” This was at an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday in Washington, D.C.
Given this and other Knowles’ rhetoric, it’s not surprising that many faculty members at the University at Buffalo, along with students and community leaders from across Western New York, have called for canceling the political commentator’s Thursday appearance at the North Campus, where Knowles is speaking at the invitation of UB student group, Young Americans for Freedom.
Unlike far-right conferences, where extremist tirades are often expected, even applauded, and where hateful speech is not unknown, the University at Buffalo prefers to emphasize diversity, equality and inclusion. Not “eradication” of classes of people it finds objectionable.
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In spite of this – or perhaps because of this – the UB administration is right to let the event proceed as scheduled, as long as it can be done without danger to attendees or the protesters who will undoubtedly be present. It will be important to avoid altercations among students, such as those that occurred at last year’s campus appearance by former congressman and Tea Party figure Allen West.
Different universities have taken different approaches to allowing Knowles on campus; with its stance, UB is in line with Boston University, which allowed a Knowles appearance last year, stating officially that the “remedy for speech that some may find hurtful, offensive, or even hateful is not suppression of speech, but more speech.”
It’s still troubling that a group with “freedom” in its name would find it necessary to lend a megaphone to views that deny others freedom of choice over gender identity, particularly in a state where discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression is prohibited by law. But it’s important to have someone to pick on, right?
For the record, Knowles is also opposed to same-sex marriage and believes that “the 2020 presidential election was obviously rigged.” If ever there were an insight …
These days, Knowles, like many other right-wing commentators, is vigorously attacking LGBTQ rights, with particular attention to transgender youth. These attacks are often accompanied by proposals of discriminatory legislation in Republican-dominated statehouses throughout the country, where legislation that wouldn’t have a chance in Congress – or, happily, in New York State – is getting an unfortunate amount of traction.
According to a Politico report, Missouri legislators have filed more bills banning transgender kids from school sports than there are transgender kids in Missouri attempting to participate in school sports.
This is the type of issue opportunism that dominates the playbooks of many right wing politicians and commentators. It’s easy to doubt the sincerity of their commitments, because they usually move on from one hot topic to the next rather quickly, depending on how many headlines and social media shares they can accumulate.
It’s a shame that anyone at the University at Buffalo feels that the Knowles brand of vengeful intolerance and intellectually bankrupt bombast deserves a hearing.
We’re happy to exercise our First Amendment right to say that we find Knowles’s opinions abhorrent. But we can’t support a ban that would undermine free speech at UB, or anywhere else.
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