Comment

Shutting down Jason Evert may have backfired on Ireland’s progressives

Traffic to the US chastity speaker's website has more than doubled thanks to the controversy

Plans for popular US chastity speaker Jason Evert to tour multiple schools and venues in Ireland this week faced online uproar and scaremongering that ended in his entire tour being cancelled. Jason was scheduled to speak at multiple schools in the Dublin area, a retreat in University College Dublin, and a number of venues in Waterford.

Two Catholic private schools, Blackrock College and Rosemont, and the Tower Hotel in Waterford were the first to cancel Jason’s talks as the result of a deeply misleading online article.

Citing his opposition to contraception and same-sex marriage, the Irish media made it appear that Jason had some wildly horrible, foreign concepts to indoctrinate the youth of Ireland with. However, Jason planned to visit Catholic groups to deliver a Catholic message that focused on saving sex for marriage, respecting the bodies of others, and how to have healthy relationships. So, why were individuals Hell-bent on forcing Jason out of his scheduled, private, non-compulsory, and in some cases ticketed talks? My conclusion is intolerance.

The reaction at University College Dublin really says it all. Members of UCD’s LGBT society were the avid “whistleblowers” of Jason’s visit to an on-campus, student-organised Catholic retreat which, in anticipation of a line-up including Jason Evert, over 100 students had purchased tickets for. Revelling in their successful protest of the “homophobic and anti-contraceptive” speaker, the society ironically (and without a hint of self-awareness) added, “This truly shows the support for diversity and inclusion on campus.”

Perhaps unbeknown to the LGBT society, the very sentiments of students attending this week’s university retreat (now without keynote Jason Evert) include “threatened”, “unwelcomed”, and “shut down by bigotry in the name of bigotry”, to mention only a few. In the lead-up to the retreat, student organisers were forced to consider hiring security, changing the schedule, and relocating from their own campus to avoid threats of protest. “Diversity and inclusion” are rich words.

In an interview Jason pointed out the insult the event has been, not necessarily to himself, but to UCD’s administration: “The idea that [university staff] have to shelter a 21-year-old from opinions other than his own kind of sounds like [they] don’t have much confidence in their critical thinking abilities,” Evert said.

In the end, Jason cancelled the rest of the tour due to illness but hopes to reschedule his trip to Ireland at later date. However, it is worth considering whether this entire fiasco was a devastating blow to freedom of speech and the setting of a bad precedent, or whether it was a backfiring martyrdom of Jason Evert which, according to him, has led to an increased flow of traffic to his website by 150 per cent. It may even be possible that more people will view his YouTube videos due to the controversy than he would ever have been able to reach with a few talks. Oh, the irony.

As one priest put it, “At least they still care enough to punch us.” While the cancelling of Jason’s talks has disappointed many, it has led to solidarity among a group of young Catholic leaders, a manifestation of the need for freedom of speech, and, supposedly, a whole load of hits for Mr Evert.