A New Tactic to Undermine Free Speech?

“The anarchic left” may be adopting a new tactic to stifle free speech on campus: rather than direct shout-downs of speakers they oppose, thus risking arrest and punishment, they may be turning to persistent heckling, says Peter Wood, President of the National Association of Scholars. On April 18, the conservative activist group Turning Point USA and the Bruin College Republicans co-hosted an event at UCLA under the title, “Exposing Leftist Lies & Progressive Propaganda.” The two-hour event was interrupted roughly 150 times by heckling, and UCLA allowed protesters the use of high-decibel speakers just outside the hall to add to the chaos.

A witness to the event wrote that the night “was literally a national script for the ‘new’ shout-down. The protesters showed step-by-step how to take control of any event, by demonstrating to everyone that they are in control. They derailed most of the speaker’s points and diverted much of the argument to their preferred topics. They took up a major fraction of the allotted time yelling and screaming their points while experiencing no negative consequences. By ignoring the actual arguments and information given, the protester attained total victory. They achieved their goals:  all fun, no pain. The two deans paced the aisles, looking nervous and confused.  For a while they played ‘whack-a-mole,’ but soon the crowd saw that the deans’ declarations about protecting ‘free speech’ were utterly meaningless.

John Leo

John Leo

John Leo is the editor of Minding the Campus, dedicated to chronicling imbalances within higher education and restoring intellectual pluralism to our American universities. His popular column, "On Society," ran in U.S.News & World Report for 17 years.

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