Professor: 'Expose' Every Media Personality, Politician Who Inspires Shootings as 'Hateful Pathetic Wretches'

professor canada fire people who inspire shooters
An empty lecture theater at the university of Mont-Saint-Aignan, near Rouen, France, on October 11, 2017. On Sunday, a Canadian professor drew criticism for posting on Twitter that people who inspire shooters should be called out and harassed. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/Getty Images

Matthew Sears, an associate professor of classics and ancient history at University of New Brunswick, the oldest English-language university in Canada, drew criticism after posting on Twitter that anyone, including college students, who inspires shooters and mass gun violence should be called out, fired from their job and hounded from restaurants.

Sears' Sunday tweets came one day after a man opened fire at a synagogue in Poway, California, killing one person and injuring at least three others. The shooter was allegedly inspired by the March shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, which claimed the lives of 50 people, prompting renewed discussions about whether perpetrators' names should be withheld to deny them notoriety. Saturday's shooting and the Christchurch shooting, along with with recent conservative victories in Canada, prompted Sears to share his opinion: that those who inspire shooters should be exposed and shamed.

"We should name every white supremacist. Name every writer, blogger, YouTuber, and politician that inspires them," Sears wrote. "Plaster their faces in public. Fire them from their jobs. Hound them from restaurants. Expose them and those that fuel them for the hateful pathetic wretches they are."

The thread continued to explicitly include political parties that attract the "white genocide crowd," and those on college campuses who platform white supremacists under the guise of "free speech."

"People are dying. And if opposing the environment in which people are dying means that some MAGA-hat-wearing wanker doesn't feel 'comfortable' on campus or out in public, then so be it," Sears wrote on Twitter. "Because that wanker makes it his life's work to make the marginalized feel unsafe."

People responded to the tweet with the claim that Sears was against free speech and that his comments evoked sentiments of McCarthyism. The term, named after then–Senator Joseph McCarthy, was penned in the 1950s and refers to the practice of making unfair allegations to restrict dissent.

Kaveh Shahrooz, a Canadian lawyer who lived in Iran, commented on Sears' tweet that he came from a place where "people literally die for free speech."

"The fact that you'd say this without understanding the value of that right just goes to show what an utterly arrogant dimwit you are," Shahrooz wrote.

For those who wrote to University of New Brunswick President Eddy Campbell to request that Sears be fired, the professor encouraged them to wait until the new president came in, as Campbell's term is coming to a close.

The University of New Brunswick Communications Office told Newsweek that the try to promote "respectful discourse and dialogue." The office added that the expectation of university members is to engage in debate in a "respectful manner."

"Dr. Sears' views do not reflect those of the university as a whole," the office said. "His views are his and his alone."

Sears disagreed with his detractors' claims that he was against free speech and told Newsweek he was specifically referring to campus platforms and groups like Turning Point USA (TPUSA), the most prominent conservative student organization in the country. He claimed TPUSA used the slogan "free speech" to "influence campus politics in a cynical and dishonest way." Newsweek reached out to TPUSA but did not receive a response in time for publication.

"Just like I don't think Holocaust-denial or flat Earth theories should be presented on campus as some sort of alternative view that's worth consideration, white genocide and [Democratic donor] George Soros conspiracy theories, etcetera, shouldn't be given academic platforms," Sears said.

Larry Sanger, the co-founder of Wikipedia, responded to one of Sears' tweets by saying he could possibly get on board with prohibiting white nationalist Richard Spencer from speaking at a college campus. However, if Sears advocated for barring TPUSA communications director Candace Owens or conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro, Sanger said the professor had "a lot more explaining to do."

Reflecting on the series of tweets, Sears told Newsweek he would have preferred to be more specific about what he meant by "free speech activists." He noted two other Twitter threads that he thought better vocalized his message.

Free speech is the legal right to say things (short of advocating violence, etc.) without fear of government censure or censorship. It is not guaranteed access to a platform, nor academic credibility, nor freedom from social and other consequences.

— Matthew A. Sears (@matthewasears) April 28, 2019

Peer review, hiring committees, tenure and promotion review, curriculum review, granting agencies, etc., are all forms of "gatekeeping." And that's just in the academy. None of these systems are perfect, and some need more reform than others. But none are against free speech.

— Matthew A. Sears (@matthewasears) April 29, 2019

"I think there are good-faith actors who advocate for free speech," Sears said. "But many are simply trolls—or, worse, deliberately use the slogan as part of a concerted strategy to shift the discourse to make racism more acceptable."

This article has been updated to include the response from the University of New Brunswick.