UNC College Students Don’t Understand Free Speech, Re: Tancredo
Last night a mob of student protesters basically chased Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo out of a speaking engagement at the University of North Carolina. Now, I don’t particularly like Tancredo as a person, agree with his message, or support his policies. But this was just immature and embarrassing.
Trying to drown and block out speech you don’t like isn’t itself an exercise on free speech, as some of these deluded protesters seemed to think. It’s the heckler’s veto: essentially no different in its effect than if the government tried to silence the talk.
And I’ll never really understand the rationale behind what these protesters were trying to accomplish. Tancredo has strong opinions on the issue of state-tuition. Whether those views are “hateful” or not (and I actually don’t agree that they are inherently “hateful” at all, just wrong), people who wanted to hear what he had to say showed up to listen. Those listeners are not passive sheep: they can decide for themselves what they think of Tancredo’s message.
Whether or not Tancredo would have taken questions or engaged in a dialog with people that oppose him is utterly irrelevant. Because the thing is, if pro-immigration and pro-universal-tuition forces want to host a speaker and invite people to come listen, they are perfectly free to do so, anytime they wish. They are free to try and get people to come listen by the force of their own arguments and appeal and advertising. That’s how debate in a democratic society works.
The protesters at one point unfurled a banner reading “No Dialog with Hate.” But no one forced them to be in that room and engage in any sort of dialog in the first place.
And that’s really the key point. What ultimately seems to make these sorts of protesters angry is not Tancredo himself, but the fact that people freely came and chose to listen to him, and not them. It’s those people they wish to punish, and succeeded in punishing. The protesters want attention, but they’re too lazy to invest time and energy drawing a crowd to hear their own views. So they simply hijack Tancredo’s event instead to push their message down the throats of the audience, whether it came to hear them that night or not.