Keeping Matt Walsh Away From SLU Isn’t About Free Speech, It’s About Giving Hate Speech a Platform

SLU’s chapter of College Republicans caused something of a stir on campus and among alumni after its members announced that they had booked a high-profile, pro-Trump speaker to give an in-person talk to students on December 1st. Matt Walsh, a columnist and host for Ben Shapiro’s The Daily Wire, has most recently raised eyebrows for his vehement defense of Kyle Rittenhouse. On Twitter, he’s even called for congressional Republicans to censure Democrats who have “smeared” the now-acquitted alleged murderer.

But Walsh’s conservative credentials extend far beyond the Rittenhouse trial. His podcast, creatively titled The Matt Walsh Show, rails against diversity, abortion rights, LGBTQ+ rights, the COVID-19 vaccine, and other contemporary social issues. 

I am no fan of Matt, and I do not consume any of his toxic, hateful rhetoric. But a simple glance at the episode titles for his podcast speak volumes about the kind of person Matt Walsh is: “The Conspiracy to Turn Our Kids Gay,” “‘Diversity’ is Code For ‘Go to Hell, Whitey,’” “A Country that Honors Men Like Harvey Milk and George Floyd Cannot Survive,” and “Colin Kaepernick Makes Slavery Sound Pretty Great.”

As a recent alumni of SLU (I graduated in May 2021), I acknowledge that a sizable portion of the student body leans right on the political spectrum. Most students that fall into this category are pretty quiet about their views; this may be out of fear of social reprisal from other, more liberal students. But I also know that these people have safe spaces they can retreat into if they feel politically isolated. Such spaces include Students for Life and SLU College Republicans. In those groups, they can share their opinions in relative peace among like-minded peers.

Despite some real or imagined threat of social stigmatization, I know that these people will not be arrested for voting Republican or erecting a memorial for aborted fetuses. The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States protects freedom of speech for all Americans, which is why I feel very little sympathy for conservative SLU students. Even if conservatives face some criticism for their political views, they are in no danger of being persecuted for those beliefs.

With all this in mind, I signed the petition on asking the SLU administration to cancel the event Walsh is scheduled to speak at. I believe in the First Amendment, and for this reason, I don’t believe that Matt Walsh should be arrested, fined, or imprisoned for his (stupid) political beliefs. While I wholeheartedly disagree with the nonsense he spouts on a daily basis, my personal distaste for the man does not mean that he should be locked up for voicing his opinion. That being said, there is absolutely no reason Saint Louis University should host Walsh on its campus.

Protecting freedom of speech doesn’t mean that we must give a platform to all sorts of speech. That is precisely why I had no issue with Twitter permanently suspending former President Donald Trump. Twitter is a non-government-subsidized private entity. It has shareholders to please, an image to maintain, and liability to be concerned with. Banning Donald Trump from Twitter was not the same as arresting him; all it did was deplatform him. The former President can continue to say whatever he wants, whenever he wants. Just not on Twitter.

Preventing Walsh from speaking at SLU would have a similar effect. As a private entity, SLU shares some of the same concerns Twitter had while it considered suspending Trump from its website. SLU’s sought-after image as a tolerant, benevolent institution that believes in upholding the sanctity of the whole person would be irreparably tarnished if it gave a platform to a man as hateful and vitriolic as Matt Walsh. Given his outlandish opinions on pretty much every topic imaginable, providing Walsh with this platform is tantamount to condoning his extreme perspective as acceptable or okay. Doing that is something I know SLU cannot afford to do, especially at a time when its community is surrounded by social inequity and injustice.

While SLU administrators ponder their next course of action, I urge them to simply look at what Walsh has said in the past. From insinuating that a governor only got elected because she was good-looking to outright racism and bigotry, this is not someone administrators should want to speak on their campus. All in all, Matt Walsh is just not a good look for Saint Louis University.

Editor’s Note: The opinion(s) expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion(s) of his employer.