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VOLOKH CONSPIRACY

Mostly law professors, blogging on whatever we please since 2002 · Hosted by The Washington Post, 2014-2017 · Hosted by Reason 2017 · Sometimes contrarian · Often libertarian · Always independent

Organized Heckling at CUNY School of Law of Prof. Josh Blackman Talk on Free Speech

Josh Blackman is one of the leading young libertarian/conservative law professors in the country.

Blackman has video and photographs at his blog, though I also include the video below. The protest, I think, shows a narrow-mindedness on the students' part, and an unwillingness to listen to substantive argument. But the heckling, which seems like an organized attempt to keep Blackman from speaking, is something much worse -- something that universities ought to punish, and that I would think many universities would indeed punish, at least in other situations. (The protesters' standing on the same stage as the speaker, I think, would also not be tolerated for other events; leaving the podium to the speaker and other invited panel members is, I think, the standard content-neutral practice in such cases.)

Say that anti-abortion students decided to try to shout down university talks by academics who support abortion rights. Or say that other students decided to try to shout down university talks by academics who support Black Lives Matters. How would, and how should, universities respond to that? I would think that the same answer should apply here.

I e-mailed CUNY (that's the City University of New York) law school, asking,

I'm blogging an item ... about Prof. Josh Blackman's talk at CUNY and the student interruptions of the talk, see http://joshblackman.com/blog/2018/04/12/students-at-cuny-law-protested-and-heckled-my-lecture-about-free-speech-on-campus/, and I want to make sure I include the law school's side of the story. Do you have any statement that you can pass along about this? What is CUNY's policy about such heckling?

I got the following response:

CUNY School of Law fully supports the rights to free speech and open discourse as well as the right to protest.

I then tried to get something beyond this unhelpful generality, asking:

Got it, thanks -- but what about people protesting in a way that interrupts someone else's speech?

That seems to be what happened here, but I take it that it could happen in other situations, too -- pro-life students shouting down a speaker who they see as pro-abortion, anti-Black-Lives-Matter students shouting down a Black Lives Matter speaker, and so on. I was hoping I could include something from [the law school] that speaks more specifically to these particular situations.

I haven't yet gotten a response to that, but I will of course post it if I do get it. [UPDATE:CUNY got back to me Thursday to say they didn't have any further to add; Monday, though, CUNY responded that the temporary blocking of Blackman's speech was permissible, a position criticized by this new David Bernstein post.]

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  • TwelveInchPianist||

    Interfering with someone's use of a non-public forum, that the speaker is entitled to use and the heckler is not, is censorship. It really is that simple.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    that the speaker is entitled to use and the heckler is not

    sounds like CUNY's call (which others are welcome to whine about or applaud)

  • William_Zanzinger||

    What would you want the administration to have done differently? Please be specific about what kind of punishment you would inpose for this type of protest. Thanks!

  • gormadoc||

    I don't think you get to give Eugene Volokh homework but he's nice so he might entertain you.

    I would have security remove them if they did not voluntarily leave, for starters. As it becomes more clear over time that this sort of behavior is not to be tolerated they should begin to actually enforce their student code of conduct, which almost certainly forbids harassment, intimidation, violence, and the like (I know mine does).

    They have actual policies for this sort of thing; it's a shame they don't apply them.

  • William_Zanzinger||

    If someone calls for punishment, I think it's perfectly reasonable to ask what they would want the punishment to be. If we can't get to that level of detail, even in a case where the events are clearly recorded on video, the conversation seems pointless.

  • gormadoc||

    Universities have set procedures for determining misconduct and have set procedures for how they should be punished. That's how they should be punished, as they are breaking their codes of conduct.

  • William_Zanzinger||

    The CUNY student handbook says that misconduct "shall be subject to the
    following range of sanctions [...]: admonition, warning, censure, disciplinary probation, restitution, suspension, expulsion, ejection, and/or arrest by the civil authorities."

    So the policy gives us a wide range of possibilities, with important variables undefined (such as the length of potential suspension).

    In this context, simply saying that violators should be punished according to the policy tells us nothing. It seems unfair to criticize the school administrators for not imposing punishment, if you are not willing to say what you think an appropriate punishment would be.

  • Careless||

    Given that they actually left after a few minutes and the event was able to continue, a warning seems fine for first offenders.

  • PeteRR||

    1st/2nd/3rd offenses?

    Warn/Suspend/Expel.

  • ThanksForTheFish||

    4th offense: use the rod beat the child .

  • Joe_JP||

    A question was asked with a "please" added. I think we are allowed to do that.

    Prof. Volokh found "unhelpful generality" so the request to clarify seems quite unsurprising.

    He can, of course, ignore it.

  • gormadoc||

    It sounds patronizing, like a dismissive teacher asking for further work so that they can safely ignore them. "Please be specific about what kind of punishment you would inpose for this type of protest" reads like a test question.

  • Joe_JP||

    Seems rather apt to add that part after Prof. Volokh himself was upset about generalities. Don't think he's that sensitive. And, your original concern was giving him "homework" which would apply even if it did not "read like a test question." People have asked the bloggers here to clarify their position for quite some time. It does not not seem to be frowned upon. Of course, he can simply ignore it.

    As to your other comment regarding universities having set codes of conduct, Prof. Volokh has repeatedly disagreed with the rules there. So, it would be sensible to think maybe he would not simply mean them.

  • SimonP||

    Eugene's own demands for responses from university administration smack of condescension. Who is he, to demand answers from their administration? He has no authority over them.

    Every one of my encounters with legal academics, since graduating law school, have been like this. They just bring a shocking lack of professionalism to their dealings outside academia, like the rest of us are for some reason beholden to the ass-kissing norms they've grown accustomed to. I would never write such an insulting e-mail response to a colleague, a counterparty counsel, a client, or any other person from whom I was seeking information, as Eugene sent the CUNY law school, much less post a public commentary complaining about it here. I don't even address my incompetent building manager with that tone.

    So, no, I don't think it's unfair at all to ask Eugene to "do his homework" here.

  • David Nieporent||

    Who is he, to demand answers from their administration?

    A journalist. It's kind of in the job description to ask questions of public officials.

    I would never write such an insulting e-mail response

    But in a comment to a post, you're okay with it?

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Eugene Volokh is a journalist?

    As Southside Johnny said to Max Weinberg after a perceived mishit during Stagger Lee on the live double album: 'You want another crack at that one?'

    I have a vague recollection that the Conspirators have expressly disclaimed the label of journalist. That was a good call.

  • SimonP||

    A journalist. It's kind of in the job description to ask questions of public officials.

    Rudely?

    But in a comment to a post, you're okay with it?

    Yep.

  • Lee Moore||

    Photograph the disrupters and post their pictures (and names if they can find them out) as a warning to future employers. Any students among them - expel 'em and keep the tuition.

    And next time take a $1,000 deposit from each attender at the door (a personal check will do.) Any protestor with a check that bounces, report to the cops.

  • y81||

    Maybe the same as Emory threatened to do to people who chalked Trump slogans on the sidewalk?

    http://nymag.com/daily/intelli.....lkers.html

  • DjDiverDan||

    "Please be specific about what kind of punishment you would inpose for this type of protest. Thanks!"

    Flogging.

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    Hanging.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Psycho.
    Just cut out their tongues!

  • David Nieporent||

    That's it; no job at the Atlantic for you.

  • mad_kalak||

    Helicopter rides?

  • FlameCCT||

    It is not a matter of what Prof Volokh wants; it is what the students attending said university (CUNY) can expect for certain behavior. Is it applied equally across all instances or does the university discriminate against certain speech.

    IIUC Prof Volokh cannot be specific if he does not have the data available. I would note that he also requested, like you, a more specific response.

  • William_Zanzinger||

    This post is absolutely about what Prof. Volokh wants. He could be specific about what punishment he thinks would be appropriate, regardless of what CUNY actually does.

    Prof. Volokh works for a public law school and there's no reason why he can't be specific about what punishments such institutions should apply in situations like this. He is often touted as a leading 1st Amendment scholar. If someone with his experience is unwilling to say what punishment he would consider reasonable in these circumstances, I think that is a strong indicator that actually handling these situations is much more challenging than just sitting around saying the students should be punished.

  • Lee Moore||

    How about shouting down a class ? Or organising a chant at an exam ? Or something the administrators might really care about - disrupting a fundraising dinner.

  • gormadoc||

    I will never understand what being 'silenced' means to these people, who take another person's platform in order to speak over them and remain unpunished for it.

  • ||

    From the video, the protesters spent about ten minutes heckling him, and then left. He then delivered his lecture. That's not so terrible.

    As we are so often reminded, freedom of speech is a restriction on the government. Students at the university do not have such a free-speech obligation. They may decide, based on their knowledge (or assumptions) of the speaker's views, that they want to engage in civil disobedience to protest those views and shut them down. Blackman himself says that he was startled to realize that the protesters believed that he was there as provocation, not simply to speak. That's the result of the alt-right poisoning the concept of free speech by using it to front the most scurrilous viewpoints. Just as the NRA poisons the 2nd Amendment by ignoring the murder of children, the (alt-?)right poisons the 1st by providing platforms for racists, misogynists, homophobes, and the like. If good people perceive that the only use of a right is to protect evil, they're not going to care when that right is restricted and innocents suffer collateral damage. (I don't know whether Blackman is one of those.)

  • Hendo||

    "As we are so often reminded, freedom of speech is a restriction on the government."

    No, the First Amendment is a restriction on the government. Freedom of speech is a much broader ideal, one that we should be willing to respect and defend even when it doesn't involve government action. This is especially a case in an institution, like a university, that is supposed to be based on the free exchange of ideas.

  • Sarcastr0||

    This is a very good distinction that people continue to have trouble with.

    It's tricky when the hecklers are claiming their right to speak via protest. I think here the line-drawing is easy. But of course once you draw a line, people will creep riiiiight up to the edge of it whenever they can.

  • y81||

    And Hyman Rosen poisons the concept of free speech by posting blog comments which are (i) patronizing (all of us know what the First Amendment is), (ii) wrong (free speech is a much broader concept than the Constitutional restrictions on government action: try reading some J.S. Mill), and (iii) dangerous (because his rationale empowers despots). Should free speech protect people who are patronizing, wrong, and dangerous?

  • ||

    I've been banned from a few blogs for being snarky and patronizing (I will not admit to wrong or dangerous), so perhaps not.

  • Rigelsen||

    There's snarky and patronizing, which are simply annoying. And then there's disingenuous and willingness to infringe on the rights of others based on nothing but your feels. You're in the latter camp.

  • mad_kalak||

    +1

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    "They may decide, based on their knowledge (or assumptions) of the speaker's views, that they want to engage in civil disobedience to protest those views and shut them down."

    They may decide whatever they want, but they may not, by definition, engage in civil disobedience. Now, maybe they feel so strongly about silencing the views of those that they disagree with that they are willing to get expelled. That would be fine with me. But if they are not facing a risk of punishment, they are not engaging in civil disobedience.

  • gormadoc||

    He's a law professor. His job is to speak and to teach. If somebody showed up to any normal job and interfered with their activities for 1/6 we wouldn't accept that. The university has policies that forbid this (as the administrator said), but they haven't acted on their policies. The free speech angle doesn't really matter; nobody here is pretending that these students are bound by the First Amendment, but they should be bound by university policy and common decency.

    If you actually watched through the video, you'd know that he didn't get to speak much on the actual topic. It was completely derailed and he spent most of the time addressing "tough" questions. Questions about the wall, DACA, the Constitution, and anti-trust, and he got called a 'cuck' at some point.

  • gormadoc||

    *1/6 of their time

  • SimonP||

    If somebody showed up to any normal job and interfered with their activities for 1/6 we wouldn't accept that.

    Sure we do - happens all the time. Abortion clinics. Non-union construction sites. Trump political appointees in the administrative state. Protesters inhibit movement, slow down business - and we call it "free speech." Even some of the most protected free speech.

    No, the problem here is you're treating a professor like he's just punching a clock and making widgets. But that's not what his "job" is. His job is to engage in a public discussion on a topic on which he's an expert. It got sidetracked by protesters, sure. He talked about things he hadn't come prepared to talk about. But that all sounds to me like he's doing exactly what his job is - to engage in that public discussion.

  • JesseAz||

    He never got to his prepared remarks, he hosted a q and a based on the protest.

  • Careless||

    Seems to have been his choice, though

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Assuming the protest wouldn't have resumed the moment he tried to return to his prepared remarks, of course. The protesters were only letting him speak because he was speaking about what THEY wanted discussed, not what he'd come to discuss.

    Victory for them.

  • ||

    The NRA "poisons" the 2nd Amendment? What a moron.

  • FlameCCT||

    Does it hurt being this ignorant Hyman?
    Or just normal for a Progressive?

    CUNY is a gov't university therefore 1A applies as well as free speech.
    If it were a private university then free speech applies.
    In either case, the university has policies dealing with this issue. If they are not applied equally then discrimination laws become applicable.

    BTW: Do you realize that "civil disobedience" means violating the law, policy, etc. hence eligible for punishment. And once again, if not applied equally, we are back to discrimination.

  • jslinner||

    if the forum itself allows it, then it is allowed. you cant have free speech and oppose their allowing free speech at the same time. pick one.

  • Rigelsen||

    You're being idiotic. Free speech does not give you the right to prevent someone else's speech. If you cannot distinguish the two, you should consider yourself incapable to participate in rational discourse.

  • jslinner||

    thats great, but they werent prevented from speaking. so youre the one being idiotic.

  • JesseAz||

    For ten minutes minutes he was. And the protestors left because he destroyed their base premises by saying he agreed with the dream act.

  • jslinner||

    no, he wasnt. youre lying.

  • MonitorsMost||

    I'll have to watch the video some other time, but from the narrative, my favorite part is him saying a Trump supporter called him a Cuck for not being MAGA enough.

  • mad_kalak||

    The person in question starts speaking at minute 37:20, and the insult happens at 39:18. He didn't say that Blackman wasn't "MAGA" enough though. Based on the comments, I think he was calling Blackman a cuck because he accepted the protesters premise, but the actual insult happens kinda out of the blue, because he spend the rest of the time refuting one of the protesters, then drops the insult, and then Blackman moves onto someone else, and we never hear from the guy again.

  • DjDiverDan||

    Classical liberalism: Everyone has the right to speak, even if their opinions are deemed offensive to some.

    Modern liberalism: Everyone has the right to speak, unless we disagree with their opinions.

  • y81||

    I would change "Modern liberalism" to "Academic liberalism." Plenty of people believe in the first formulation, but they mostly don't teach at universities.

  • Careless||

    "Classical liberals" don't all live in the past. Modern liberalism is a very different concept.

  • Joe_JP||

    It has been reported that they did give him a chance to speak after their protest.

    In practice, classical liberalism blithely looked on when various people and views could not be spoken or certain speakers did not speak. Currently, both are much more broadly secured.

    Conservatives also at times heckle and try to stop certain "bad' opinions.

  • bernard11||

    Quite often, in fact, though you wouldn't know it from this blog. The whole phenomenon of ProfessorWatch and related sites tries to shut down liberal or left-wing faculty with harassment, death threats, etc.

    We don't get information about that here, of course.

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    "The whole phenomenon of ProfessorWatch and related sites tries to shut down liberal or left-wing faculty with harassment,"

    Huh? How are they any different from the SPLC and their lists of hate groups? The SPLC enjoyed widespread credibility for an long time, and continues to enjoy credibility among many on the left.

  • bernard11||

    The comparison is ludicrous.

    Can you show me where SPLC supporters leave threatening messages on people's phones?

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    I can show you the whole "it's okay to punch someone if you call them a nazi first" meme from the mainstream left.

    But in any event, do you have any evidence that the "Professor Watchlist" site condones the death threats? The fact that some lefty professor got an anonymous death threat isn't going to move me any more than hearing that some neo-nazi got an anonymous death threat, which I'm sure happens.

  • JesseAz||

    Splc supporters shot up the family research council idiot.

  • bernard11||

    Spic.

    OK Jesse. We know where you stand.

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    ?? There's no call for racial slurs. But Jesse's example is much better than yours. The SPLC listed the family research council as a hate group, then they got shot up.

  • VinniUSMC||

    Spic.

    OK Jesse. We know where you stand.

    Apparently bernard is too stupid to know the difference between a lowercase "L" and a capitalized "I" even given the context clues of the "L" being surrounded by lowercase "p" and "c".

    Stop projecting your racist thoughts onto other bernard.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    When conservatives stop being and appeasing bigots, mainstream America will stop considering right-wingers racists.

  • bernard11||

    And Jesse is to stupid to know when to use capital letters in an abbreviation.

  • Careless||

    Can you show me where SPLC supporters leave threatening messages on people's phones?

    Wow, you really walked into that one, bernard

  • bernard11||

    I didn't walk into anything. The attack on FRC was motivated by its opposition to SSM, which bigotry was widely known regardless of anything SPLC did.

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    And you don't think people were aware of Prof Ponce's bigotry without the professor watchlist?

  • Ed Grinberg||

    "The attack on FRC was motivated by its opposition to SSM, which bigotry was widely known regardless of anything SPLC did."
    1. The dictionary defines "bigot" as "one who regards or treats the members of a group (such as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance." I don't think you have to hate homosexuals to be opposed to SSM.
    2. You seem to be justifying the attack. We're talking about trying to kill people because you disapprove of their stated opinions. We're talking about fascism.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Not all gay-bashers are bigots? Is that because some gay-bashers are not to be held accountable for their positions consequent to superstition-laced gullibility?

  • bernard11||

    You misread.

    I'm not justifying anything. I'm merely saying that the attacker had lots of sources of information about FRC, so blaming SPLC is silly.

  • Careless||

    Oh, so the fact that he said he got them from the SPLC doesn't mean he was inspired by them, while some death threats from random people are proof that professorwatch is sending death threats.

  • Careless||

    You're also making the bizarre implied claim that because there are other people out there doing things similar to what SPLC does, they're not responsible for what they do, while the whole group of professorwatch, campusreform, etc are all responsible for what someone who reads any one of them does.

  • bernard11||

    And you are claiming that, gee, this thing happened with SPLC and therefore all the stuff that happens with PW is OK.

    Read my comments. My accusation is not that Eugene is spreading falsehoods. It is that he takes what seems to be a very one-sided view of things, criticizing those on the left but saying nothing about those on the right, and that at least once he gave a pass to a serious misrepresentation of an incident by his allies.

  • David Nieporent||

    The shooter expressly cited the SPLC's categorization of it as a hate group as his motive.

    And you should really apologize for your mistaken accusation that Jesse used an ethnic slur.

  • bernard11||

    1. You are correct about the latter. I hereby apologize.

    2. Whatever the shooter said, or where he got his motivation, we are talking about one incident as opposed to many. This is standard deflection - "whataboutery." It's nonsense. Gee, Obama once lied about something, so Trump's steady stream of falsehoods is OK, for example.

  • AustinRoth||

    Provide a link please to prove your case. Otherwise it is Fake News.

    About the only death threats I have seen come from the left. But left or right, death threats should be dealt with as a criminal matter.

  • bernard11||

  • SimonP||

    About the only death threats I have seen come from the left.

    So, what's a more plausible explanation for this pattern you've witnessed:

    (i) It fully reflects the reality of who is leaving death threats for whom; or
    (ii) Your sources of news/information may not be giving you a full picture?

    For bonus points, you might ask yourself what a random commenter (i.e., virtually anyone else reading your comments) would think is the most likely explanation for your self-reported pattern of observation?

  • y81||

    I am sure that Prof. Volokh is opposed to death threats. Publicizing the views of people in power, however, is an entirely legitimate activity.

  • JesseAz||

    Yes. Publicizing attempted student indoctrination should be hidden and out of public view....

  • bernard11||

    If you don't like it, it's "indoctrination." Is that what you think, oh mighty champion of free debate and expression?

    The spics are probably behind it all, anyway, or maybe the kikes and n****rs. Right, Jesse?

  • VinniUSMC||

    You're a fucking moron. He typed SPLC but the P, L, and C were lowercase (OMG?!). He didn't type "spic". That was your own projection, idiot.

  • Ridgeway||

    Bernard seems to be a bit niggardly with presumptions of good faith.

  • Careless||

    Professorwatch is sending out death threats? that's a serious accusation, bernard. Links?

  • bernard11||

    They are clearly, and predictably, enabling death threats and other forms of harassment.

    And let me clarify the point I am trying to make.

    Eugene is all over any suppression of or attack on the speech of conservatives. And I agree with him that this should not be tolerated. Let the idiots rant.

    But he has never said much about attacks on left-wing professors and, indeed, he has, IMO, misrepresented some situations - notably the Miami case.

    So I wonder if he is really acting in good faith, or letting his right-wing ideology influence his judgment on these matters.

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    "They are clearly, and predictably, enabling death threats and other forms of harassment."

    By criticizing the professors? Wow. Just wow.

    With comments like this, I have to wonder if you are really acting in good faith.

  • DjDiverDan||

    "With comments like this, I have to wonder if you are really acting in good faith."

    Please try to be charitable to bernard11. Remember Napoleon's advice -never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by ignorance. And, given the level of bernard11's ignorance, such incredible ignorance can explain quite a lot which would otherwise appear malicious.

  • silver.||

    "So I wonder if he is really acting in good faith, or letting his right-wing ideology influence his judgment on these matters."

    I don't think they're necessarily mutually exclusive. We could all stand to diversify our news sources.

    As such, what if we posted coverage of right-wing 'hecklers' whenever these threads appear? Soave posted about some conservative non-students shutting down a speech. A WaPo OP/ED about shutdowns from both sides. Another WaPo piece about how faith in universities is declining amongst conservatives. One OP/ED agrees with Volokh that there should be (reasonable) consequences for egregious incidences of protest censorship.

    I can't speak for Prof. Volokh, but I'm genuinely interested in knowing about all instances of heckling.

  • Absaroka||

    FWIW, EV did cover the the Whittier incident:

    VC post on Whittier/Becerra/Calderon

  • David Nieporent||

    They are clearly, and predictably, enabling death threats and other forms of harassment.

    In exactly the same way the SPLC is.

    But he has never said much about attacks on left-wing professors and

    Yes, he has. When the situations have arisen. The difference is that what seems to happen in the case of conservative speakers is that they are publicly prevented from speaking (or the attempt is made anyway), whereas in the case of liberal speakers they receive private threats after they say something controversial. Not that private threats are "better," of course. But they're so obviously wrong and nobody endorses them, whereas some people do endorse the acts to shut down conservative speakers.

    indeed, he has, IMO, misrepresented some situations - notably the Miami case.

    There are three problems with that. (1) It wasn't really misrepresented; some nuance was missing, but the basic idea that groups were being charged more because they were bringing controversial speakers was there; (2) EV was very explicitly passing along something from other people, rather than stating it as true from firsthand knowledge; and (3) as soon as he found out details that vitiated the original narrative, he posted those.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    The difference is that what seems to happen in the case of conservative speakers is that they are publicly prevented from speaking (or the attempt is made anyway), whereas in the case of liberal speakers they receive private threats after they say something controversial.

    Another big difference is that on conservative-controlled campuses the dissent is suppressed by the administration and rarely gets a foot in the door to be heckled.

    Liberal-libertarian campuses tend to avoid loyalty oaths, respect academic freedom, encourage dissent, refrain from imposing dissent-suppressing speech and conduct codes, and therefore invite conservative speakers and hire conservative teachers.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Modern liberalism: Everyone has the right to speak, unless we disagree with their opinions.

    Right-wingers lack the self-awareness needed to recognize that this describes conservative academia.

    Carry on, clingers. So far as teaching nonsense; strident censorship; disdain of science and history; speech and conduct codes; suppression of academic freedom and free inquiry; and operation of fourth-tier schools can carry anyone, I guess.

  • mad_kalak||

    Are private conservative/religious collages neutral public forums, where one is entitled to a platform to speak? If not, then they are not denying anybody the right to speak, assuming even that they were even asked in the first place.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Do you contend that the Volokh Conspiracy limits its complaints to those involving public institutions rather than to liberal-libertarian schools?

    Some people believe censorship does not improve when served ith a side of superstition, ignorance, or backwardness.

  • Alan Beck||

    Blackman showed up and got heckled for a few minutes but some of the protesters stays and engaged him so to be honest mission accomplished. While its a little unsavory to heckle him he would not have been able to rope in the ones that stays if there was no protest. While the students should get some discipline this is not a Charles Murray situation where someone got assaulted.

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    According to Robby Soave, "They tweeted, "My existence > your opinion."

    I wonder what it's like to be so fragile that facing contrary opinions threatens your very existence.

  • Careless||

    At least one of them had a sign saying that.

  • SimonP||

    I think it's disgusting, frankly, for any purported advocate of free speech to call for the punishment of heckling. Heckling is just as much a part of our free speech traditions as getting up on stage to get heckled. That's part of how public discourse happens. Unruly, unacademic, not very thoughtful speech, perhaps. But you start regulating who gets to say what, when, where do you stop? Are we hanging this all on the thin reed of a forum analysis?

    Whatever happened to combating free speech with free speech? If students heckle, lecture on why they shouldn't. No one has a right to be heard.

    The false equivalence to other public speakers with the values flipped is a particularly dubious comparison. It might be apt if we had examples of administrators punishing conservative hecklers. Do we? No, it's just presumed that they would, isn't it? Because we can just assume that all administrators are thumbing the scale in favor of opinions they prefer, huh?

    Why don't you quit your post and go to GMU with the rest of the libertarian backwash? You clearly have nothing but contempt for your employer or the system within which you work.

  • JesseAz||

    A protestors free speech ends in a private setting as this was.

  • SimonP||

    When you can't even bother to get the facts straight, is there any point in responding to you like you have something worth paying attention to?

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    What's wrong with his facts? The event was not at a traditional public forum, where everyone has an equal right to speak.

  • SimonP||

    What's wrong with his facts?

    Seems you have a problem with facts, too.

    No, a "traditional public forum" is not a place where "everyone has an equal right to speak." The speech doesn't seem to have been in a "traditional public forum," no, but that's not the same as saying it was a "private setting," nor does it really tell us anything about a protester's right to speak in the particular forum where the speech was scheduled to be given.

    Really, the fact that you're barking up the forum tree in the first place just shows how fundamentally you misapprehend my point.

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    You're quibbling over the his use of the term, "private setting"? He was in a forum that was available for the use of particular users. He was allowed to use it, they weren't. By your reasoning, the right to speak gives people the right to intrude anywhere somebody is expressing a viewpoint, and express a contrary viewpoint. This is ridiculous, and an anathema to free speech.

    "Really, the fact that you're barking up the forum tree in the first place just shows how fundamentally you misapprehend my point."

    You don't have much of a point.

  • jslinner||

    then that means eugene has no claim to free speech on the invited speakers behalf.

  • Careless||

    Whatever happened to combating free speech with free speech?

    Uh, it's an impossibility when people are shouting you down and shutting down your events. Now, in this case the faculty threatened the students so they left before shutting down the event, but that was likely their intention. They certainly wanted him deplatformed.

    But you start regulating who gets to say what, when, where do you stop?

    /facepalm

  • SimonP||

    Uh, it's an impossibility when people are shouting you down and shutting down your events.

    I can't broadcast my manifesto across half the country, either. No one's claiming my rights are violated.

    /facepalm

    This might come as a surprise to you, but raucous, uncivil discussions happen all the time on university campuses. When, precisely, ought incivility in a debate be punishable? When the administrators want to systematically favor the views of some speakers over others? Or other times, as well?

  • VinniUSMC||

    I can't broadcast my manifesto across half the country, either. No one's claiming my rights are violated.

    You certainly could broadcast your manifesto. There's this cool new thing called "the internet". No one is stopping you.

    Whether anyone would care to read it though...

  • SimonP||

    Maybe you're unaware that "the internet" is not "broadcast"?

    But even on the internet, it's not true that I have anything like the resources I'd need to reach any particular audience. Any post that I write is "drowned out" by the multiplicity of other posts on the same topic that abound on the internet, unless I have access to a particular platform or the resources to promote it endlessly.

  • Absaroka||

    1)You have a right to speak, not a right to have an audience supplied to you.

    2)You can start a blog for free. If you say anything worth hearing, people will want to read it and you will become influential. EV didn't get a big grant to start this blog, after all.

    What do Mark Twain, Tom Clancy, John Grisham, and JK Rowling have in common? It's not that their careers were launched with lavish funding.

    3)If I go to a talk by Josh Blackman, it's because I want to hear what Josh Blackman has to say. If I go to a talk by SimonP it's because I want to hear what SimonP has to say. I don't want Josh Blackman interrupting SimonP's talk, and I don't want SimonP interrupting Josh Blackman's talk. If you have something to say, schedule your own talk.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    When Tea Partiers were commandeering town hall meetings, right-wingers such as Absaroka were cheering the yahoos.

    I remember when conservatives had principles, and Republicans favored competence, reason, progress, education, and limited government rather than backwardness, nihilism, ignorance, superstition, and the nanny state.

  • Absaroka||

    "When Tea Partiers were commandeering town hall meetings, right-wingers such as Absaroka were cheering the yahoos."

    Really? Because my memory is that I thought the Tea Party types were way off base. Thanks for correcting my memory!

    (as shocking as this may be, not everyone who supports free speech is a right winger. In fact, it used to be kind of a leftish thing. When I joined the ACLU in the 1980's (gosh how time flies!) it didn't seem particularly right wing to me. And now it has apparently become right wing. What strange, strange times we live in.)

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    If you expressed the same opposition to Tea Party hecklers that you have expressed with respect to these students, I withdraw my assertion and apologize for it.

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    "When Tea Partiers were commandeering town hall meetings..."

    Damn tea partiers, censoring the government.

  • Careless||

    assuming you did buy the bandwith to broadcast your manifesto, yes, jamming you would be both wrong and a crime.

  • jslinner||

    eugene has always been a hypocrite. he has never been a consistent advocate of free speech though he pretends to be. the only thing he does consistently is complain about protests.

  • VinniUSMC||

    This is what happens when you eat Tide Pods kids. Don't end up like jslinner, don't eat Tide Pods.

  • FlameCCT||

    Damn, they definitely need a thumbs up button!

  • Rossami||

    re: "But you start regulating who gets to say what, when, where do you stop? Are we hanging this all on the thin reed of a forum analysis?"

    Yes. Always have, always will.

    A designated speaker invited to give a lecture at a publicly-funded university is pretty much the quintessential example of a limited public forum. Neither the speaker nor the protesters have permission to exceed the boundaries of their permission to be there.

    Just as your right to swing your fist stops at the tip of my nose, your right to make speak stops when it interferes with my right to hear an opposing view.

  • SimonP||

    Just as your right to swing your fist stops at the tip of my nose, your right to make speak stops when it interferes with my right to hear an opposing view.

    This is a particularly sloppy extension of the old chestnut, since there's no such thing as a "right to hear an opposing view" commensurate with a right to be free of harm. And you haven't bothered to connect it to the "limited public forum" analysis you sort of hand-wave at, suggesting that, if taken seriously, we'd have to surmise that this putative "right to hear an opposing view" extends to wherever you happen to be - public, private forum.

    You don't have a "right to hear an opposing view," any more than you have a "right to an internet comment thread without trolls or racists" or a "right to hear the TV at a loud bar" or whatever. That's just not the way that the right to free speech works.

    As for what protesters may do in a "limited public forum" - as I've intimated, I'm just not sure it does the work we need it to do here. A forum analysis might tell us what CUNY administration can or can't constitutionally do, when it's weighing whether to permit a speaker to speak in its facilities. That doesn't tell us what they can constitutionally do, with respect to protesters, but more importantly, it doesn't tell us what, as a matter of first principles, "free speech" requires. Even if CUNY administration could constitutionally punish the protesters, that does't mean that it serves "free speech" values to do so.

  • David Nieporent||

    I think it's disgusting, frankly, for any purported advocate of free speech to call for the punishment of heckling. Heckling is just as much a part of our free speech traditions as getting up on stage to get heckled. That's part of how public discourse happens.

    You are being disingenuous by calling it "heckling." Heckling -- responding challengingly to things said by a speaker -- may or may not be legitimate, but that's not what we're discussing. We're discussing the attempt to completely prevent a speaker from speaking.

    If students heckle, lecture on why they shouldn't. No one has a right to be heard.

    I mean, that's a vague statement that encompasses lots of possibilities, so maybe not categorically. But, yeah, actually people do have a right to be heard. (Not to be listened to, no. But to be allowed to speak.) There's little practical difference between saying, "You may not give this speech" and "We can't physically stop you from talking, but if you do try to give this speech, we'll walk up to you and blow airhorns so nobody can hear you."

    If they were actually "heckling," then "lecture on why they shouldn't" might be a reasonable statement. But as noted, you're misusing the word "heckle." You can't "lecture on why they shouldn't" shout you down when they're shouting you down. Because, you know, nobody can hear you because people are shouting you down.

  • SimonP||

    You are being disingenuous by calling it "heckling."

    Or, uh, just calling it what Eugene called it.

    But, yeah, actually people do have a right to be heard. (Not to be listened to, no. But to be allowed to speak.)

    "Allowed to speak" is not synonymous with "heard." What you mean is we have a right to speak so we might be heard. We have no right to ensure that our speech lands at any particular target.

    There's little practical difference between saying, "You may not give this speech" and "We can't physically stop you from talking, but if you do try to give this speech, we'll walk up to you and blow airhorns so nobody can hear you."

    Little practical difference, except for the one that matters. If interfering with my "right to be heard" is tantamount to interfering with my "right to speak," then there's no real reason why you'd distinguish between intentional nuisances, bona fide heckling, or just annoying loud snorers in the front row.

    You're parsing an extremely fine distinction in order to cast the protesters' actions as beyond the pale. But I'm just embracing free speech, in the messy glory in which it occurs, in a vibrant and open society such as ours. Yes, this is a land where student groups invite speakers to give reasoned lectures on topics of interest. It's also one where protesters barge in, create a ruckus, trying to make a point. It might upset the good professor's quaint sensibilities, but so what?

  • Ghost of Patrick Henry||

    Fascism. Failure to punish them is supporting Fascism.
    Defending them here is evidence of supporting Fascism.

  • jslinner||

    that is exactly backward. youre the fascist.

  • VinniUSMC||

    It's facist to try to shut down speech you oppose. It's not facist to expect for those facist bastards to face punishment for being facist bastards.

  • Sarcastr0||

    If I were to say that the real fascism is knee-jerk calling the other side the real fascists, would we have Fashception?

  • Ed Grinberg||

    Leftists work hard to divorce words from their meanings, to make them meaningless. This makes it easier for them to accomplish their goals.

  • jslinner||

    speaking at the same time as someone else isnt fascist. you wanting to punish them for speaking at the same time as someone else is fascist.

  • jslinner||

    "heckling... something that universities ought to punish"

    eugene volokh = anti-free speech.

  • JesseAz||

    Free speech doesn't extend to private events.

  • jslinner||

    thats mean eugenes post isnt about free speech.

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    Eugene Volokh understands free speech better than you. Free Speech doesn't give you the right to disrupt someone else's speech in a non-public forum. It does give you the right to speak in a non-public forum, if you follow the forum's rules.

  • jslinner||

    and yet he evidently hates it. sad.

  • MightyMouse||

    Smell is a powerful mode of communication. Eat a lot of beans beforehand, then silent but deadly for the win. But seriously, it looked like he was grateful for the audience.

  • mad_kalak||

    You may be unaware of this, but that very same protest method is mentioned in Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. They were planning on using it at some point. Seriously.

  • MightyMouse||

    I'm sorry my attempt at humor offended you. It was wrong of me to try and make light of such a serious matter.

  • mad_kalak||

    Naw, my comment wasn't meant to sound offended, just amused, in that what you thought was a throwaway joke, was seriously considered being used as a form of protest by the community organizer prime himself.

  • FlameCCT||

    Good beer and boiled eggs!

  • Eidde||

    "pro-life students shouting down a speaker who they see as pro-abortion, anti-Black-Lives-Matter students shouting down a Black Lives Matter speaker, and so on."

    Have such incidents occurred?

    My impression is that such incidents have *not* occurred - either because potential conservative protesters know they would be harshly dealt with - or (if we want to be charitable) because the conservative students don't want to behave that way.

  • Mark22||

    Someone like Josh, who advocates taking money from tax payers and handing it out to people based on skin color as "restitution" for what other people with the same skin color experienced a couple of centuries ago doesn't seem particularly "libertarian/conservative" to me.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    Isn't it great that universities employs lots of people whose job is to answer emails with vague generalities?

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    Every time one of these threads come up, I ask myself what argument I could make against Volokh's 1A fundamentalism. And every time I come up dry. I can't find a reasoned argument I want to offer. Which troubles me, because I also don't entirely agree with the notion Volokh repeatedly defends.

    I offer a general description of some lived experience, from the Viet Nam war era. If Professor Volokh would be pleased to reply, I would welcome it.

    It was commonplace, while the Vietnam War was escalating, for anti-war protesters to be threatened with retaliatory draft induction, by politicians speaking generally, but also, more to the point, by their draft boards speaking pointedly. Institutional platforms for anti-war views were initially rare to non-existent. In 1966-1967 it took genuine courage simply to step off a curb in public to join an anti-war march. Younger people accustomed to take speech and protest liberty for granted can have little notion how different things were during the aftermath of the McCarthy era.

    At the same time, administration big-wigs were afforded campus platforms across the nation to proselytize war. Just as Volokh demands, students were expected to tender silent respect to the speaker, both for his views, and for the dignity of the speaker's office. My question for Professor Volokh is, could it possibly be okay—under such a regime and under such customs—assuming a student incautious enough to do it—to heckle a speaker of that sort?

  • Smooth Like a Rhapsody||

    You're making this more complicated than it needs to be because you are afraid of losing cred with your left wing buddies.
    If, say, it's 1967 and Bob McNamara comes to a large room in the Student Union at UW-Madison to give a university-sponsored talk about the war, is it "ok" for a speaker to disrupt the speech? Of course, as long as the disruptor is willing to suffer the consequences of arrest.
    Why are you asking if civil disobedience (and, that is all this is) is "ok"? "Ok" in what sense?
    The problem is we have Vietnam babies in charge of all our universities now, and they are both viscerally anti-conservative and don't want to be seen to be on the "wrong side" when the history of this era get written.
    If you want a simple heuristic: If the behavior would be prohibited in the middle of a class lecture, then it may (and should) be punished during a speech.
    This is not that difficult.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    Or the consequences of being drafted, and killed in the war the speaker protests? While McNamara risks what, exactly? I'm having trouble figuring out how this right wing speech equality cred works. But so are you. Why would you suppose anyone would comment here to enhance left-wing credibility? Sort of the wrong audience for that, don't you think?

  • Smooth Like a Rhapsody||

    Why should McNamara be asked to risk ANYTHING in this scenario?
    As to the protestor: either you have the courage of your convictions or you don't.
    I still don't understand your (probably rhetorical) usage of the word "ok" to motivate your hypo. If you are asking would it be "ok" for the disruptor to be lynched outside the hall, I am pretty confident that Eugene would deem that wrong. But if the cost of your illegal action is expulsion, and the concomitant loss of your deferment, then those are the rules. If you don't like them, change them; but you do not have the right to keep other people from going to hear a speaker.
    And, as to the "cred" part, I was referring to your inner monologue, as well as your image in front of the other lefties on here like bernard and Michael Hihn.
    Once again: not that hard if you give the matter some thought.

  • bernard11||

    As to the protestor: either you have the courage of your convictions or you don't.

    Or perhaps you have the courage to be arrested, charged with a misdemeanor, or whatever consequence the law provides. Would you say that it showed a lack of courage to retreat under threat of violence or death, because that's what we are talking about.

    During the Vietnam era, protestors, even, by the way, those not heckling or interrupting anyone, were in fact threatened with being drafted, though of course there was no legal basis for that, and it pretty obviously infringed 1A rights. Draft boards had a lot of autonomy in those days to draft, or not draft, individuals. They didn't always use it wisely.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    My question for Professor Volokh is, could it possibly be okay—under such a regime and under such customs—assuming a student incautious enough to do it—to heckle a speaker of that sort?

    The record indicates that Prof. Volokh would (1) complain incessantly when a conservative speaker was the target on a liberal-libertarian campus and (2) remain silent when a conservative institution engaged in viewpoint-based discrimination, suppression of academic freedom, enforcement of conduct codes, or the suppression of science to flatter nonsense.

  • Smooth Like a Rhapsody||

    Even if we grant all (yeah, I know...) your premises:
    leave it to you to argue that it is better to invite a speaker and throw rocks at him, than to not invite him at all.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    I believe conservatives should be permitted to speak on liberal-libertarian campuses (not necessarily without protest or heckling). I believe these students should have permitted Prof. Blackman to speak, although I also believe they were entitled to express their objection to his statements.

    I am disinclined to take pointers on this issue from conservatives, who are ardent censors when they get control of an educational institution, or from Prof. Volokh, who cherry-picks his reports of speech-inhibiting conduct to promote movement conservatism with partisan, misleading, unprincipled argument. It's a highly refined form of disingenuous ankle-biting.

  • jslinner||

    no one threw rocks. if keeping it literal doesnt push your point, then your point is probably bs.

  • tkamenick||

    Having watched the whole video, Blackman himself is a lot more chill about this than you or FIRE.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    I imagine the disingenuous partisans at FIRE will make it rain among right-wing donors with this one.

  • MonitorsMost||

    Watched most of the video now. I would venture that half of the kids who stayed around and interacted were not in law school based on the questions and comments. The one guy talking about in Blackman being subconsciously socially oppressed in Houston because he's a Jew but being an oppressor in New York, what the hell does that have to do with the law or any of the topics being discussed? It wasn't even a question. Or the guy who called Blackman a cuck.

  • SimonP||

    I would venture that half of the kids who stayed around and interacted were not in law school based on the questions and comments.

    Pfft! Well, CUNY Law is a third-tier law school. It can be hard to tell the difference between people with no legal training and actual law students, at that level.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Has South Texas School Of Law Houston reached the third tier yet?

  • William_Zanzinger||

    "Third-tier" would be a huge step up from the institution Blackman works for, which recently changed its name in a desperate attempt to gain exposure, then had to change it again after being sued for trademark infringement.

    At least it explains why "one of the leading young libertarian/conservative law professors in the country" would be so motivated to speak at CUNY; it was a chance to get away from the backwater where he works, if only for a moment.

  • Bored Lawyer||

    The term "heckling" does not seem to capture what is happening here. Heckling is defined as "to harass (a public speaker, performer, etc.) with impertinent questions, gibes, or the like."

    To my mind, heckling means a short interruption of a speaker, hopefully with something witty or intelligent (though often not). IOW, heckling is not taking over someone's time and space, it is pointed criticism of the speaker.

    A sustained effort to stop someone from talking over a period of ten minutes is not heckling. It is interference. That is the type of behavior deserves punishment.

  • MonitorsMost||

    "Heckling" or "heckler's veto" is effectively a term of art at this point vis a vis First Amendment jurisprudence.

  • Don Nico||

    It then seems that "overriding the veto" by expulsion for the term is an acceptable response by an administration that wishes to have all viewpoints heard.

  • Careless||

    Wow, and I didn't even notice bernard projecting his racism onto others the first time through. what a trainwreck he was.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    'Liberals are the real racists' has become a quite popular position among right-wing racists.

    Almost as popular as 'we're just colorblind' and 'Democrats are bigots -- just look at the '50s and '60s in the South.'

    Carry on, clingers.

  • ScottK||

    In a civilized society the heckler's veto can be useful in retarding the spread of Disingenuous Prickery, but naturally the DP community will not take that lying down.

    It's often hard to tell the difference between the hecklers and DPs, you kind of need to know what they're doing on their off hours. Often, hecklers have a real life and DPs are on the job 24/7, but there are occasional outliers.

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