Lauren Cooley, editor of the Washington Examiner’s Red Alert Politics section and co-founder of political action group Campus Red PAC, spoke about the importance of free speech and civil discourse in higher education at a Berkeley Forum event Monday.
Cooley is one of the 17 speakers from this semester’s Berkeley Forum lineup. Her talk, held in 125 Morrison Hall, was part of her nationwide “Make Campus Great Again” tour, which aims to inspire right-leaning student activists to “play on the offense instead of defense, and be proactive,” Cooley said in her speech.
“One of the things that is very interesting when you fast forward to today, the left when it comes to free speech is no longer interested in keeping free speech,” Cooley said to the audience. “They are actually interested in taking away free speech. The far-left today is actually regressive. It is a large cultural shift for our nation.”
The Berkeley Forum is a student-run organization that hosts speaking events on campus. The forum has hosted speakers from across the political spectrum as part of its nonpartisan mission, according to forum head moderator Shaina Zuber.
In her talk, Cooley argued that free speech exists to hinder hate speech. She also spoke on American exceptionalism — the belief that the United States is unique among other nations regarding its ideas of democracy and individual freedoms.
Cooley initiated her speech remarks by calling on any “antifa,” or anti-fascist, attendees to stand up — but no student protesters were present at the event, which was attended by about 30 students.
Cooley acknowledged in her speech that she had come to campus with the preconception that the majority of students hold more liberal perspectives that oppose hers. Cooley also criticized the current trend for the progressive left to combat hate speech and expressed her dislike of the term “hate speech,” arguing that such a term is hard to define.
“We have to keep in mind that our country that is constantly evolving on moral principles, I think, if we outlaw any speech that we deem threatening to our society,” Cooley said in her speech.
After the event came to an end, students huddled around Cooley to ask her one-on-one questions. Fatima Hasanain, a campus senior, said she believed Cooley had “a couple of interesting arguments.” But Hasainan added that those arguments were “not logically sound” and were “grounded in incorrect facts.”
“We should be aware that not one idea truly represents all political views and individuals, and I believe that was represented here with Cooley bringing out various perspectives on what freedom of speech is and how it is used in society versus how it is used in the government,” said Andi Khalaf, a campus senior and the vice president of student group Young Americans for Liberty.