Campus hecklers, disruptions, violence don’t count as free speech

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(Nico Perrino, Longview News-Journal) America is experiencing two disturbing simultaneous trends: the rise of mob censorship to shut down speaking events on college campuses, and an attempt to justify it as merely the exercise of “more speech.”

At SUNY Albany this month, protesters stormed an event, formed an improvised conga line and prevented a lecture — ironically, titled “Free Speech on Campus” — from beginning.

In a now notorious incident at Stanford Law School last month, protesters shouted down a federal appellate judge’s speech.

And in November, hecklers drowned out conservative commentator Ann Coulter at Cornell, playing loud music, chanting, shouting at her and repeatedly preventing her from speaking. “We don’t want you here, your words are violence,” screamed one heckler.

I have defended free speech on college campuses for over a decade. We’ve seen waves of shout-downs before. But few defended the disruptions. In fact, they were usually met with near-universal condemnation.

Not so anymore. Some now argue that drowning out and shutting down speakers is an exercise of “more speech,” not an attempt to carry out a “heckler’s veto” on the speaker. Depressingly, 62% of college students say that shouting down a speaker is acceptable to some degree.

“It’s called protest,” one…

Perrino: Hecklers, your disruptions don’t count as free speech | News |