So the "Unsafe Space" campus speaking tour sponsored by Spiked (and hosted at least once so far in an emergency backup way by Reason) continues to generate interesting collisions between libertarian commentators and the angry campus progressives who seek to shout them down. One recent incident, while not coming close to a Berkeley-style riot, or a "Cocks Not Glocks" dildo-waving protest of gun-right speaker Katie Pavlich, or even the latest Charles Murray kerfuffle, nonetheless caught my attention because it involved old pal Kmele Foster, and my favorite piece of writing by Martin Luther King.
Foster (see video below) had just sat through a series of emotional audience harangues defending identity politics and speech-sensitivity as necessary pushbacks against a racist power structure, when he attempted to make a case familiar to Reason readers—that free-speech protections are crucial precisely for minority populations' struggles against the majority:
For so many years in this country, and I'm pointing to the 1960s in particular, speech protections were used by minority groups who were fighting for civil rights, and it was essential for them to be able to secure those rights, in order to advocate. The reason why Martin Luther King, for example, wrote his Letter from a Birmingham Jail from a Birmingham jail was because he was imprisoned for effectively violating speech codes—handing out flyers in the wrong spot, all of these various things. I think this is something that we don't necessarily understand.
It was at that precise moment—the whole speech-codes-hurt-comparatively-powerless-black-people moment—when activists started shouting "Black lives matter! Black lives matter! Black lives matter!" as if, uh, there was any suggestion to the contrary? Thus began several minutes of barky audience non-sequiturs such as "WHO controls the facts? WHO controls the facts? It's the system!" Eventually Foster was able to complete his point. You can read more about it over at Campus Reform (with a corrective follow-up tweet from Kmele) and watch the exchange below:
The incident also came up during our most recent Fifth Column podcast, beginning at around the 7:40 mark:
I had the weird experience of being part of an event that is being protested, where there are police officers, there 's a gauntlet of security guards who are checking bags, who are doing all of these things….Within 15 minutes kids are standing on their chairs screaming "Black lives matter!" They are standing up, disrupting the entire event. They ask for questions from the audience—rather than raise your hand and be called, since no one's hand rushed up right away, and you would have been either first or second, you just wait until we select someone, hand them a mic, and you run up in front of the room and say, "I'm just gonna stop this right here!" […]
At some point we were able to reel it in, and I suspect that my pigment was helpful in allowing me to calm the storm a little bit….I was a little flustered, because there's something really unsettling about being in a place like that.
You can listen to the whole episode, which covers a lot of free-speech ground, here: