The intolerance that’s spreading on college campuses is making its way beyond the quad. The belief that it’s somehow OK — or even valiant — to shout down or otherwise disrupt a speaker you disagree with is fundamentally in opposition to the First Amendment.
There’s no shortage of examples to point to at universities. American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray got the royal protester treatment earlier this month at the University of Michigan, which is bad behavior he’s gotten used to — as have many others.
We recently wrote about a study highlighting the disturbing lack of understanding many students (of both political parties) have of the First Amendment. That ignorance is fueling an uptick of these protests.
And it’s not limited to college students. Case in point: the Macomb County Republican Party is under fire for inviting former White House strategist Steve Bannon to headline its Nov. 8 Lincoln/Reagan Unity Dinner. Love him or hate him, the event is already sold out, so Bannon holds plenty of interest for county Republicans. Tickets are $70 a pop.
But there are detractors demanding that Warren Mayor Jim Fouts prevent him from speaking. And there are others wanting to eliminate the presence of protesters altogether.
The bottom line is Bannon has the right to speak. And those who are offended by him don’t have to listen to him. That’s the beauty of free speech.
Fouts has said police will be at the event to protect both event attendees and protesters, assuming some show up.
Joe Vicari, the owner of Andiamo Banquet and Event Center where Bannon will speak, has reportedly also gotten criticism for hosting the event.
His response: He doesn’t discriminate against groups that want to hold events at his restaurant. Good for him.
Trying to prevent speech for whatever reason is a dangerous proposition. If protesters are successful in shutting down Bannon’s Warren appearance, it’s not as if he or his views are going away. Let him have his say, and respond to it accordingly.
It has to be noted that most of the efforts to shut down free speech are coming from the left. When former Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton’s appeared in Ann Arbor last week to promote her new book “What Happened,” her remarks went uninterrupted. And the Women’s Convention in Detroit this weekend, which has blatantly excluded conservative women from its movement, isn’t garnering loud backlash from the right, either.
In a piece for the New York Times, University of Oregon President Michael Schill related how students prevented one of his speeches this fall. Ironically, they were protesting in part Schill’s support for free speech on campus, which they claim enables “fascism and white supremacy.”
Schill writes: “One of the students who stormed the stage during my talk told the news media to ‘expect resistance to anyone who opposes us.’ That is awfully close to the language and practices of those the students say they vehemently oppose.”
Bannon’s speech in Warren should be allowed to go off without incident. Those who want to hear him should buy tickets. Those who detest him and what he stands for should stay home.