Ratifying the Heckler's Veto, and Getting the Boston Demonstration Wrong

Matt Welch talks Berkeley's quaking in front of Antifa, and Jacob Siegel explains who the original demonstrators the other week actually were


As Scott Shackford explained in this space yesterday, the free-speech white-flag waved in the face of Antifa this week by Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin is becoming an ominous test-case in this fraught post-Charlottesville era of ours. In the immediate wake of the latest Antifa East Bay assault, such capitulations—which are on the rise nationwide—are a near-textbook definition of the "heckler's veto." Right-wingers petition to speak, left-wingers provide a credible threat of violence, and so the nervous authorities seek to pre-emptively shut the speech down. In Shackford's measured words, "One of the primary expectations of a city government is to protect the civil liberties of the people within its borders, and the right to speak freely and demonstrate peacefully are among those liberties."

I was a little bit less polite about the subject on last night's Kennedy:

Public safety in our street-fightin' times is no simple matter, of course, which is why two weeks ago I asked First Amendment explainer extraordinaire Ken "Popehat" White about the trickiness of protest-permitting and free speech. His answer, in part:

So first of all, you didn't even need a permit in Charlottesville, as I understand it, to generally assemble. Cities can't get around the First Amendment by creating elaborate permit requirements. The First Amendment still applies, and it limits the way you can use permit rules. So yeah, the suggestion uttered by, God help us, the president of the United States, that somehow the protestors were illegitimate because they didn't have permit, is nonsense. It's not a valid, legal argument. So cities can't eliminate protests through permit requirements, nor can they stop normal, lawful assembly and protest.

The next big clash after Charlottesville came in Boston, where a tiny "free speech" rally (which was routinely portrayed with precisely those air-quotes) was met with a massive anti-racist counter-demonstration. On the most recent edition of The Fifth Column podcast, we had on freelance journalist Jacob Siegel, who was not only at the rally in question, but at its precursor back in May. And man, did his description of the events, and the organizers thereof, differ than 99 percent of the characterizations I saw on Twitter. Take a listen, particular at the beginning of the show:

Siegel also has an interesting new piece out for Vice titled, "The Alt-Right and Antifa Are Waging a New Kind of Internet Warfare."

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  1. What if they threw a clash of demonstrations and no one came?

    1. Look if the other side doesn’t show they will just beat reporters, cripple vets and throw piss at the cops. Heck loot some Starbucks and break windows. Just because your intended victims don’t show up, doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun!

  2. Take a listen, particular at the beginning of the show…

    And then quickly turn it off, unless you enjoy increasingly intense sniffling and coughing directly into your earholes.

  3. I just went to my podcast thingie to download an episode and Jesus are the files huge. All you have to do is use a different bit rate or something. It’ll sound just fine and be way smaller. People will actually download it and listen to it instead of seeing 250 MB+ per episode and not bothering.

  4. *marks bingo sheet* One more step closer to another civil war. Yay.

    1. Since the fascist group antifa is from California, we can start by telling them they have seceded, and now need a passport to enter the US. Then deny visas to those in the peoples republic of Pacifica.

      1. As tempting as that is, there are good people in California. They don’t deserve to be lumped in with the rest.

        1. If they are good, what are they doing in California?

          1. Trying to make enough money to move out of California.

            1. Bon chance to them.

              Of course, there are good people there – including one of my darling stepdaughters who was good enough to omit her mother from the wedding invitation list.

          2. I was born here and I’ll not be run off. No judgement on they that aren’t good for the fight, but someone born here needs to try to care enough to stay.

            Plus post divorce cavorting is very nice.

            1. Well, tell us about the pre-divorce cavorting.

  5. I loathe the alt-right and their idea that “free speech” entails protecting their idiot racist fuck ideas from public criticism, but the antifas tactics are completely wrong, precisely because the “no-platform” message completely obscures the public criticism. The answer to offensive speech is always more speech, which includes counter demonstrations, obviously. But you want other people to hear the counter-speech – and if you spend all your time trying to silence the person you’re speaking against, nobody is going to hear the counter speech. They’re just going to hear the part about you trying to stop that guy from speaking, and wonder why. It’s absolutely stupid and counter productive.

    1. “I loathe the alt-right and their idea that “free speech” entails protecting their idiot racist fuck ideas from public criticism, ”

      Please cite a source. I have never heard anyone saying they should not be criticized, just not assaulted

    2. What evidence do you have in support of your assertion that free speech, as conceived by alt-righters “entails protecting their idiot racist fuck ideas from public criticism”?

    3. Because what bothers me most about ‘antifa’ isn’t the violence, bigotry, and totalitarianism endemic to that movement, it’s that they’re not effective at countering the ‘alt right’, whatever that means anymore.

      1. What, exactly, is that they are trying to counter?

      2. Black blocs are also too puritanical – erotiphobes, teetotalers, anti-narcos, etc. – for my tastes.

        1. What the hell are erotiphobes? Oh.

    4. You had me at “completely wrong”

  6. Why is “anti-racist” not in quotes?

    Do you think if a black person didn’t agree with them they wouldn’t after that person also?

  7. The black bloc is at least consistent in their position of not abiding by free speech as – outside of libertarianism – nobody else tolerates free speech either.

  8. I was a little bit less polite about the subjectPOLKA DOTTED on last night’s Kennedy:

    (holding head in hands, sobbing)


    1. Plaid and stripes? John Daly golf clothes? Mathew Lesko outfit?
      What I wear?

    2. It was for you, Gilmore.

  9. That’s a good ‘cast! Enjoyed hearing Siegel again, especially after that Boston thingy. It only needed some of Moynihan’s garbage accent.

  10. Did you know that Antifa types said it is okay to punch a white male libertarian in the face! Milo was alt right and a homosexual who dated black men. I don’t think he fit in with White Nationalist Thinking. I think the whole thing is overblown as I never heard of Richard Spencer until Trump won and the press started promoting him as the leader. The press is defining the movement that in fact had very little definition. The funny part is most of the people who voted Trump have no idea what the alt right is. Just know that Libertarians are next if they get serious and pose an actual threat to the establishment political power!

    1. The lefty posting here as mortiscrum claimed Anitfa dated from the 1920s. I asked for a cite, natch, got nothing; presume it was bullshit like most of his posts.
      The search I did suggested that some group in post-war Germany could lay claim to the name, maybe. the NYT claims they are ‘heirs to’ some lefty thugs in the ’40s.

  11. “UC President Janet Napolitano wades into campus free speech debate”
    “The UC leader waded into the issue of free speech on college campuses, too, saying that controversial, right-wing figures such as Milo Yiannopoulos want to provoke universities and their students, not engage in meaningful debate or discourse.”
    “I’m asking that each of you determine the best means, beyond your research and work in the classroom, to help the public distinguish between evil, long-discredited ideologies and the voices of reason, tolerance and moderation,”…..165976.php

    Of course, she’s referring to that evil ideology which has caused at least a hundred million deaths, Marxism. Right? Right?

    1. Yeah. Right.

  12. So yeah, the suggestion uttered by, God help us, the president of the United States, that somehow the protestors were illegitimate because they didn’t have permit, is nonsense. It’s not a valid, legal argument. So cities can’t eliminate protests through permit requirements, nor can they stop normal, lawful assembly and protest.

    The ‘suggestion’ didn’t come from the president–it came from the fact that the other group was forced to have a permit and forced to go to court to get that permit upheld. Trump just pointed it out…that Charlottesville was, in fact, trying to ” stop normal, lawful assembly and protest” and that the other side had jumped the hurdles set in place to stop them–while their attackers didn’t.

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