On Wednesday Milo Yabbadabbadoopolous—an incredibly uninteresting person whose sole claim to fame is being a moderately articulate, sort-of well dressed racist xenophobe and misogynist—was supposed to give a “talk” at UC Berkeley. Massive protests arose on campus. Property was destroyed. Fires were lit. Berkeley College Republicans (boy if that isn’t the loneliest campus group on earth I dunno what is) were attacked. Berkeley cancelled his talk.
The reaction was immediate and as predictable as the sun rising in the sky tomorrow: morons immediately began braying about how Mr. Yabbadabbadoopolous’ rights to free speech had been impinged upon by the protesters.
That XKCD comic explaining why this is not an imposition on free speech was circulated to the tune of thousands of retweets. Again, this is all more or less routine at this point any time some goose-stepping bonehead gets punched in the head or some reactionary dweeb has dog shit thrown at his face. The chain of events happens without skipping a step, every single time. And that’s fine, not that anyone seems to learn anything. The same people correct the same idiots/neo-nazis every time.
What the comic noted above references but does not explicitly name is the so-called “heckler’s veto.” It is, in short, the right not to be shouted down.
The ever-helpful Wikipedia says that the right to a heckler’s veto has been more or less unaddressed by US Supreme Court jurisprudence. So lettuce consider it.
I find the theoretical idea of using the power of the government to prohibit protesting so that another may voice his viewpoint (i.e. a right against the heckler’s veto) sort of contradictory. The right to protest is being curtailed in favor of the right to speech. The protester’s free speech rights ARE being impinged! There are very few opinions so noxious that they cannot be stated in public. Even those goofies from the Westboro Baptist Church usually don’t get assaulted. I would say that the heckler has a right to be even inside the auditorium with the noxious speaker. If it’s occurring on private land, security/the police can drag the guy or gal out. If it’s on government land and no one throws a punch, well, that’s tough for the speaker, I would say.
But the more important thing to remember is that the right not to get shouted down, independent of court rulings and laws, does exist. Mr. Yabbadabbadoopolous is not an unintelligent man: he dropped out of college twice, once from Cambridge! He chose these University of California campuses because he knew he would get an incredibly unfriendly reaction. He probably had no plans to even get on stage at any of these locations. If Mr. Yabbadabbadoopolous was really looking for a receptive audience he could go to Liberty University or Bob Jones or Oral Roberts or wherever else they still prohibit hand-holding and interracial dating.* And yet, he went to Berkeley.
For that matter he’s apparently held talks at other large state schools without problems enough to shut the event down. This largely toothless report from the University of Colorado - Boulder notes that several protesters were arrested outside his show. And there’s your actual right not to get shouted down.
Any ruling or holding regarding the heckler’s veto (either for or against) would be more or less meaningless because no one cares about that shit. It won’t stop you from getting arrested, thumped on the head by some brainless cop, and convicted by some shitty ex-DA judge who’s running for re-election on a “thump the hippies on the head and convict them” ticket. The right not to get thumped on by the cops for protesting, which exists in theory and in case law, is basically non-existent in real life.
The people these angry slobbering fascists should be yelling at are actually the cops! The cops aren’t thumping enough hippies or anarchists to allow Milo to speak. I doubt, however, that the average white supremacist has the intellectual capacity to realize that. Or if they do, the last people they’d ever criticize are the armed forces in charge of maintaining white supremacy.
I believe I’ve spent entirely enough time speaking about this issue. I don’t think Sidespin, a Kinja Blog (TM), has a very substantial open-minded white supremacist readership. Anyway, people like Milo Yabbadabbadoopolous and Martin Shkreli and anyone who’d leap to defend them in real life or on twitter deserve to be punched in the head as hard as possible and run out of any town they’re in on a metaphorical or literal rail.
*I will admit very readily that this argument relies mostly on the same noxious reasoning employed by leading conservatives/reactionaries/capitalist scum who say that people should be willing to move to all ends of the earth to find gainful employment. They note this, of course, without any irony while frequently decrying the fact that the home and the community are being torn apart. It should come as no surprise that the kind of person unintelligent enough to suggest one move to North Dakota for an oil job at the drop of the hat might not notice he or she has contradicted him or herself. But I digress. I would say my spin on an otherwise specious argument is valid, at least in this case, because Mr. Yabbadabbadoopolous has the resources to travel to wherever he wants. Also because he’s acting in bad faith, is a shithead nazi and hardly deserves the thought I’m putting into this. Whatever.