Free Speech

Middlebury College Disinvites Polish Politician Ryszard Legutko, Fails Free Speech Test Yet Again

Protesters said it was "absolutely, unequivocally" not their intention to shut down Legutko. The administration panicked anyway.

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Two years after a mob of activists silenced Charles Murray and attacked his debate partner, Allison Stanger, Middlebury College is again permitting censorship to rule the day. But this time, it is the administration, rather than the students, shutting down the debate.

Earlier this week, Middlebury officials cancelled a planned event featuring Ryszard Legutko, a Polish politician and philosopher. Ryszard is known for his conservative social views, and has criticized "homosexuals, Africans, and feminists." This led many on campus to criticize the Alexander Hamilton Forum, a group associated with the college's political science department that seeks to create stimulating discussions on campus, for inviting him.

"By giving Mr. Legutko a platform to promote his book, you legitimize the destructive party and government that he is associated with," wrote Thomas Gawell, a recent graduate, in an op-ed for The Middlebury Campus, the student paper. "As a Middlebury alumnus from Poland, I am truly hurt that you showed such level of insensitivity and ignorance. I am all for Middlebury inviting speakers that hold views different than those of the campus majority. But you could at least seek speakers who are not bigots and hypocrites."

Legutko was slated to discuss his views on democracy, not his views on homosexuality. Even so, student-activists had planned to protest the talk and were organizing an LGBT-affirming event to take place outside the forum. Importantly, as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education's Nico Perrino notes, the activists had no intention of shutting down Legutko. On a Facebook page for protest organizers, an activist leader said, "It is absolutely, unequivocally not the intent of this protest and those participating in this protest to prevent Legutko from speaking. Disruptive behavior of this nature will not be tolerated."

This makes the college's decision to cancel the talk very troubling indeed. No doubt the administration did not want a repeat of the Murray debacle. But preemptively shutting down difficult conversations out of an abundance of caution is really no different from shutting them down due to mob pressure. The administration claimed that its decision "was based on an assessment of our ability to respond effectively to potential security and safety risks for both the lecture and the event students had planned in response." This sounds like excuse-making.

Per one student's request, a political science professor, Matthew Dickinson, invited Legutko to address his class instead. This is better than nothing, but did not and could not have included everyone who wished to attend the Hamilton Forum event.

A college that values the free exchange of ideas should be able to host a controversial or provocative speaker—and supporters and critics alike should be able to show up, ask tough questions, or protest in a manner that does not infringe on the rights of anyone else. That Middlebury has once again failed this test is not an encouraging sign.

NEXT: If Either Party Cared About Limiting Executive Power, Trump's Presidency Would Be Toast

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  1. After five Mueller Report posts, in a row, all I can say is ‘Thank God for Rico’.

    …now I feel sullied.

    1. Four of which were ORANGE MAN BAD.

    2. “Trump may be technically innocent of obstruction of justice, but Trump’s America is still a hotbed of racists thinking they should be allowed anywhere near college campuses”

      Plus he forces us to write clunky headlines because we are too mad to see straight

  2. I am all for Middlebury inviting speakers that hold views different than those of the campus majority.

    I sense a but coming.

    1. “I am all for Middlebury inviting speakers that hold views different than those of the campus majority.”

      Apparently they edited out “As long as they are speakers that I approve of personally.”

    2. I sense a but coming.

      Ryszard Legutko is against that.

  3. and has criticized “homosexuals, Africans, and feminists.”

    …. Walked into a bar? What? I’m curious to know more about the criticism that involves lumping them all together in one sentence

    1. …and the bartender asked, “what is this, some kind of joke?”

      1. Funny! Did you hear the one about the Polish guy who was invited to speak at a university?

        1. He was so stupid, he thought universities were about learning and encouraging curiosity and critical thinking!

          Ha ha ha, did he forget to pull the pin out of the grenade before pulling it, too?

          1. before *throwing* it, I have to keep my jokes straight.

            Except the joke about Patrick Fitzgerald and Gerald Fitzpatrick.

    2. And criticized them for what? I can criticize African culture, gay culture, and feminism without hating Africans, gays, or women, or thinking they are inferior. People criticize white people all the fucking time; as long as they are not criticizing them merely for being white, then what the fuck is the matter? Let’s not not criticize any group for anything ever.

      1. They inadvertently stated how they truly think – that these people cannot be criticized at all. The fact that any criticism was directed towards the people that happen to be part of these clearly superior and above-reproach groups is evidence that the critic is a “bigot.”

    3. He probably intended to only criticize the feminists, but being a dumb polack, he can’t tell anyone from those groups apart, so he includes all of them.

  4. See, this is about what I would have expected. It’s not student mobs shutting down speakers (generally). It’s overly cautious and risk-averse school administrators who are the problem. THEY are the ones not really standing up for free speech. These administrators should grow a spine.

    1. The administrators were specifically hired to not have a spine.

      1. Hell, George Bridges specifically included “invertabrate” on his application to Evergreen State.

  5. So *one* of the groups protesting the appearance said they didn’t want to disrupt the event?

    Therefore, we are to assume there would be no disruption, though Charles Murray’s appearance was disrupted and a professor attacked?

    (OTOH, they had the Polish guy speak to a class and there wasn’t any disruption.)

    I’d say that if they stopped and punished the Murray disruptors, they’d have less reason to fear disruption on this occasion.

  6. >>>I am truly hurt that you showed such level of insensitivity and ignorance.

    Thomas Gawell likely does not know true hurt.

  7. This incident reaffirms my decision to do The Russian School at Norwich University instead of Middlebury for the summer of ’85.

    Yes, the latter is more prestigious, but the program I attended was set in beautiful Northfield, nestled in the green mountains, right on Route 12.

    One delightful aspect was observing the dopey freshmen and sophomore Norwich cadets who were forced to do summer school attempt to pick-up the hot, but attitudinally challenged, female Russian School students, many of whom were 3-5 years older than the remedial cadet tards.

  8. Fuck all of you commie SJW asshats/

    GO fuck yourselves

    I’m giving you HATE SPEECH.

    What you gonna do commie losers???

    1. Whine and whimper all you want, clinger. Rant, too.

      Just be sure you continue to obey the preferences of your betters, the liberal-libertarian mainstream, who have been diminishing the role of your right-wing preferences in America throughout our lifetimes.

      Too that line, clinger.

      1. I so hope someone murders and mutilates you in front of a cheering crowd.

        1. I, like most members of the liberal-libertarian mainstream, enjoy stomping on your backward, bigoted, authoritarian, right-wing political preferences.

          If you want to be politically or culturally relevant, avoid the side that loses — and deserves to lose — the culture war.

          Or move. American will be better when you are replaced.

          1. I, like most same human beings, think you’re a useless turd who should be beaten to death with a 2×4.

  9. I’m guessing Robby won’t be invited to the dinner at the Southern Poverty Law Center this year.

  10. “If Either Party Cared About Limiting Executive Power, Trump’s Presidency Would Be Toast”

    No. No it wouldn’t. What an asinine premise.

  11. But preemptively shutting down difficult conversations out of an abundance of caution is really no different from shutting them down due to mob pressure.

    Q: What do you tell a woman with two black eyes?

    A: Nothing, she’s already been told twice.

    See, you get a few mob attacks and then the mob doesn’t have to attack, it just has to show up. And now they get to act all innocent: “Oh, no, honey I had no intention at all of punching you, I don’t know why you would ever think that you aren’t free to say anything you want to me or think you have to keep your mouth shut for fear of being punched! Where did you ever get that silly idea?”

    It’s the same way people insist that the government doesn’t force you to do things “at gunpoint”. You know they’ve got guns and you know they’ll use them, but doing what you’re told is entirely “voluntary”.

  12. Right-wing bigots have rights, too.

    Middlebury could reasonably reconsider its association with the fledgling malcontents and bigots-in-training who invited this guy to campus, though.

    1. Don’t feel bad, Kirkland. The French are working hard to get your home fixed. You’ll be back in your bell tower in no time.

    2. You could reasonably consider doing the world a huge favor by taking a shotgun and blowing your pea sized brains out.

  13. I heard Legutko was riding in a friend’s car back in Poland when the friend started panicking. “What’s wrong?” He asked.

    The friend explained that the brakes had totally failed and they were going downhill, gaining speed, right toward the intersection at the bottom of the hill.

    “Don’t worry,” said Legutko. “We’re in luck! There’s a stop sign at the bottom of the hill.”

    I haven’t thought about that Polish joke in probably 30 years, but it seems appropriate for someone so dim they can’t tell Africans from gays or from feminists.

    1. What if it’s a gay African feminist??? Seriously, do you even intersectionality?

  14. Never heard of Middlebury College before this, maybe they did it just to get in the news and get some publicity.

  15. “Ryszard is known for his conservative social views, and has criticized “homosexuals, Africans, and feminists.”

    All speakers at Middlebury must be ideologically pure.

    1. No, I don’t. I believe intersectionality is a crock of shit. And I say that as someone who gets repulsed and angry whenever I witness injustice. It’s almost as stupid a concept as cultural appropriation, which takes the prize for being the dumbest concept of the past few decades.

    2. College speakers shouldn’t be ideologically pure, but they should be reasonably intelligent. This guy seems clueless.

      Case in point: how can Africans be a single group? It’s an entire continent. Not all Africans are black. There are Arabs and Berbers (not the same) throughout the northern areas. There are also significant numbers of white transplants and people from the Indian subcontinent. Even among blacks there you find huge differences between tribes. Does a 7-foot-tall Masai look much like a 4-foot-tall Kalahari Bushman?

      This guy is a politician (they tend to be pretty dumb) and a collectivist (values group associations over individuality). He’s obviously very confused about geography yet thinks he’s still qualified to criticize entire continents. Sorry, but I wouldn’t invite him to speak at an elementary school, much less a college.

      1. Whoah, there, little fella.

        Criticizing “Africans”? That could mean criticizing Robert Mugabe, a reasonable and moral thing to do. YOU are the one who makes the jump to assuming he has criticized “all Africans”. That is an assumption you’ve made and it seems pretty baseless.

        So…what you’re saying is…

  16. “As a Middlebury alumnus from Poland, I am truly hurt that you showed such level of insensitivity and ignorance. I am all for Middlebury inviting speakers that hold views different than those of the campus majority. But you could at least seek speakers who are not bigots and hypocrites.”

    This twit’s projection is as bad as the rev asshole’s, and that’s a high bar!

    1. Yes, the irony is delicious

  17. “Here’s some ice water in case you’re thirsty, sir.”

    “You Americans are wonderful – you still have the secret recipe for ice cubes!”

    Har har.

  18. […] Soave, an associate editor at Reason magazine, lamented the college’s failure to uphold free speech values in regards to Legutko’s […]

  19. […] protest’ on Facebook asserted that, while signs and literature are acceptable to distribute, ‘It is absolutely, unequivocally not the intent of this protest and those participating in this prote….’ Yet canceled it […]

  20. […] protest’ on Facebook asserted that, while signs and literature are acceptable to distribute, ‘It is absolutely, unequivocally not the intent of this protest and those participating in this prote….’ Yet canceled it […]

  21. In that recent graduate’s op-ed: “What I personally find surprising about this event is that some of you fail to recognize that Mr. Legutko is a hypocrite. He represents Law & Justice, a party that works tirelessly to destroy what is left of Polish free media and rule of law. This party has fired virtually all journalists from public media, placed its former MP as the president of the largest Polish TV network, and daily feeds ruthless propaganda to millions of unaware Poles. They have illegally taken over the Constitutional Tribunal and the Supreme Court, for which there are procedures pending against the country at the European Commission. They did so to bypass the Constitution and transform young Polish democracy into a very dangerous hybrid of economic socialism and nationalism/xenophobia.”

    One of the things that party pushed through Poland’s parliament last year was a law that make talking about Poland’s complicity in the Holocaust a crime.

  22. […] critical of the planned protest and its organizers, others, such as Reason, a libertarian magazine, focused their criticism on the administration for canceling the talk, rather than on the […]

  23. […] experienced other notable controversies preventing conservatives from speaking on campus including Polish politician Ryszard Legutko and author Charles Murray. Patton announced that these recent incidents of bias were “causing […]

  24. […] script for what followed has become all too familiar. Students protested his appearance and accused Legutko of criticizing multiculturalism and gay marriage. They […]

  25. […] script for what followed has become all too familiar. Students protested his appearance and accused Legutko of criticizing multiculturalism and gay marriage. They […]

  26. […] script for what followed has become all too familiar. Students protested his appearance and accused Legutko of criticizing multiculturalism and gay marriage. […]

  27. “…I am all for Middlebury inviting speakers that hold views different than those of the campus majority. But you could at least seek speakers who are not bigots and hypocrites.” So anyone that is not of the campus majorities viewpoint.

  28. […] script for what followed has become all too familiar. Students protested his appearance and accused Legutko of criticizing multiculturalism and gay marriage. They […]

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