Is exclusive language the same as free speech?

Back in January, Geert Wilders, a rogue Dutch MP, made headlines when a court ruled that he would be tried criminally for his unflattering stance on Islam.I wrote about Wilders in a Letter to the Editor before I joined The Cynic, but recent events — at UVM and the world at-large — made it seem worth mentioning.Shortly after the incident, some members of the British House of Lords invited Wilders to show his controversial film Fitna at Westminster. It was their way of affirming free speech in the UK.But Gordon Brown’s government wouldn’t have it. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith barred Wilders from entry into the UK.When he arrived at Heathrow Airport anyway, he was met with border patrol and sent back to the Netherlands.Somewhere in England, Winston Churchill was muttering angry, witty quips in his grave.The first time I read about the Brits’ dithering commitment to free speech, I had something of a dyslexic moment. “Geert Wilders was trying to come to UVM?”In a certain way you could say that they “Ben Steined” him.Either way, I think we all know that Wilders wouldn’t be allowed within a 10-mile radius of the University.UVM — like the Dutch, Brits and many other colleges — is an implicit promoter of a bizarre caveat to free speech — if it’s “offensive,” it’s forbidden.In case you haven’t heard, UVM is waging an underground war against “exclusive language.”  Along with genuinely offensive words, “black and white,” “gyp” and, of course, “freshmen,” are verbally off-limits.Even “lame” made the list. I’m not making that up. “Lame” acquired a meaning distinct from physical disablement years ago, but the word is evidently wreaking havoc on self-esteems across the University.UVM’s political correctness crusade is certainly well intentioned and completely forgivable, but it’s also obnoxiously patronizing. The “exclusive language” shtick exudes the attitude of an elementary school guidance counselor. It’s an obvious byproduct of an uber-liberalal knee-jerk desire to order away the world’s problems.  If there’s a problem, it invariably has a corresponding policy to solve it.There’s obviously an issue with that. You can’t regulate the world to harmony. Banning “exclusive” language will no more end bigotry than prosecuting Wilders will solve Europe’s shaky relations with Islam.While I’m no fan of genuinely offensive language — or Wilders for that matter — censorship essentially amounts to sweeping ignorance under the rug, unchallenged.Thankfully, most people still believe the war on ignorance should be fought in the “marketplace of ideas” instead of courts and boardrooms.If that’s to continue, we need to stop trading away speech rights in favor of artificial harmony.Justin Baldassare is a freshman History major at UVM. He has been writing for The Cynic since 2009.