No Free Speech For “Overtly Racist Old White Dudes”: Northwestern Protesters Force The Cancelation of Jeff Sessions Event

I have previously written about the curtailment of free speech and the refusal of both faculty and students to allow opposing views to be heard on campuses. Northwestern University (one of my alma maters) has been particularly complicit in this trend against free speech. Now, protesters have blocked students and faculty from hearing remarks (and have a dialogue with) former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The incident at Northwestern follows a growing list of such conservative speakers barred from being heard by protesters.

To the delight of protesters, Sessions was escorted off campus in a triumph of silencing the free speech of others. Sessions remarked “I’m just gonna tell you: This is stupid. This is not right.” He is right.

The event was sponsored by the College Republicans and Sessions’ speech was titled “The Real Meaning of the Trump Agenda.” Protesters however refused to allow others to hear such views.

Student Zachery Novicoff embodied the rising intolerance to free speech on campus. He is quoted as saying “There’s a limitation to free speech. That ends at overtly racist old white dudes.”

Such students claim the right to prevent other students from participating in classes or events — a similar complaint raised against the recent protests against James Comey at Howard University as well as schools like William & Mary.  Likewise, the Homeland Security Secretary was prevented from speaking at Georgetown. For years, I have written about the loss of free speech protections and why universities must take action in such disruptions of classrooms like a recent incident at Northwestern University.  This violates a core defining value of our academic institutions and such students should be suspended for such conduct.  There is a difference between voicing your views and preventing others from speaking, particularly inside of a classroom. When you claim the right to prevent others from hearing opposing views or speakers, you are at odds with the academic mission of these universities.

This danger was evident when McAleenan was interrupted almost immediately after he rose to speak. Others in the room objected that they wanted to hear from him, but the protesters would not allow anyone to hear views that they disagreed with. McAleenan was eventually forced to leave. The department, which published the secretary’s prepared remarks, expressed regret that the students prevented a meaningful exchange.

I do not buy the convenient argument that silencing others is a form of free speech. I have previously discussed how Antifa and other college protesters are increasingly denouncing free speech and the foundations for liberal democracies. Some protesters reject classic liberalism and the belief in free speech as part of the oppression on campus.  The movement threatens both academic freedom and free speech — a threat that is growing due to the failure of administrators and faculty to remain true to core academic principles.  Dartmouth Professor Mark Bray, the author of a book entitled “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook” is one of the chief enablers of these protesters. Bray speaks positively of the effort to supplant traditional views of free speech: “At the heart of the anti-fascist outlook is a rejection of the classical liberal phrase that says I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” He defines anti-fascists as “illiberal” who reject the notion that far right views deserve to “coexist” with opposing views.

The cancellation of the Sessions event is a disgrace for Northwestern and a triumph for those who want to deny free speech to those with whom they disagree. Censoring speech has become a badge of honor for some. It has not stopped at simply stopping speeches and classes. We have been discussing the rising intolerance and violence on college campuses, particularly against conservative speakers. (here and here and here and here). Berkeley has been the focus of much concern over mob rule on our campuses as violent protesters have succeeded in silencing speakers, even including a few speakers like an ACLU official.  Both students and some faculty have maintained the position that they have a right to silence those with whom they disagree and even student newspapers have declared opposing speech to be outside of the protections of free speech.  At another University of California campus, professors actually rallied around a professor who physically assaulted pro-life advocates and tore down their display.  In the meantime, academics and deans have said that there is no free speech protection for offensive or “disingenuous” speech.  CUNY Law Dean Mary Lu Bilek showed how far this trend has gone. When conservative law professor Josh Blackman was stopped from speaking about “the importance of free speech,”  Bilek insisted that disrupting the speech on free speech was free speech

This anti-free speech trend constitutes an existential threat to the educational mission of high education. Too many of us on faculties are silent in the face of this intolerance.

78 thoughts on “No Free Speech For “Overtly Racist Old White Dudes”: Northwestern Protesters Force The Cancelation of Jeff Sessions Event”

  1. via the link – Jeff Sessions DID speak, and DID address student questions. This post is mis-leading and hyperbolic. That none of the commenters clicked through to see what was reported is most unfortunate as well.

    1. “This danger was evident when McAleenan was interrupted almost immediately after he rose to speak. Others in the room objected that they wanted to hear from him, but the protesters would not allow anyone to hear views that they disagreed with. McAleenan was eventually forced to leave. The department, which published the secretary’s prepared remarks, expressed regret that the students prevented a meaningful exchange.

      I do not buy the convenient argument that silencing others is a form of free speech. I have previously discussed how Antifa and other college protesters are increasingly denouncing free speech and the foundations for liberal democracies.”

      The good news, is that by legitimizing silencing of opponents, they’re legitimizing what happens they day when we silence them.

      And, it will come. The more they jettison the trappings of classical liberalism the faster it comes. Let it happen! Sooner the better. Enough of the Enlightenment fantasies.

  2. The professor raises a serious, relevant, if not over worked, Constitutional issue.

    May I suggest a far more relevant, Constitutional and deadly democratic issue.

    The Salt Lake Tribune “received wisdom, I mean status” as a “non-profit corporation.”

    https://www.sltrib.com/news/2019/11/04/historic-shift-salt-lake/

    As I have mentioned many times before, I find the professor and his blog more directed at or towards political issues than Constitutional, or, at least, new, relevant, serious and democratically deadly issues.

    Now, I return you to red team, blue team, liberal, conservative, Democratic, Republican nonsense. May I suggest reading the book “Affluence and Influence” by Martin Gilens.

    dennis hanna

  3. I truly hate to say it, but this has now come to the point where these fascists on the left need to get a lesson at the end of a fist when they attempt to stop people from exercising their First Amendment rights. A few bloodied and broken noses, some black eyes, make them pay a price for their behaviour, and they will stop.
    This situation is akin to the piracy crisis in SE Asian, Somalian and other waters a few years back. That became quite serious, with boat crews being ransomed by their governments for millions of dollars. In other words, the criminals were being rewarded for their violence.
    No one wanted to use force to stop it and the situation became much worse. Finally, shipping companies started to hire mercenaries, and after a few of the pirates were blown out of the water, the crisis ended. You still see the odd ship taken over, but nowhere near what it was years ago.
    We’re at the same point here. There is NO price these clowns pay for their behaviour, so there is no reason for them to stop. We’ve tried reason, we’ve tried being nice and it isn’t working. The people who control these venues aren’t stepping in to stop this behaviour.
    It’s time for the next step – a quick and painful right cross to the head. Only then will these idiots stop.
    Mind you, we’ll have to put up with their idiotic bleating about the violence of the right, but not for long. It’s really tough to talk past the bandages they’ll be wearing.

    1. Are you talking literally or figuratively? A violent response might hand these fascists a new cause, and recruitment tool. A better way to deal with them is for the college President to kick them out of school for violating a published rule.

      1. I am absolutely talking literally. It has come to that point in my opinion. It will only have to be done a few times before these people understand that they are in the wrong. It’s unfortunate, but I believe it’s necessary.

    2. I share the professors concern that this is a serious problem that needs to be addressed and with your view Canuck Sailor that something must be done to end these heckler’s veto acts. But your solution – violence – is not the answer. It would almost certainly make the whole matter worse. You make a false equivalency – a logical fallacy – between the piracy in Somalia and these anti-speech acts on university campuses. The two are not akin, as you claim.

      1. We have tried being nice. We have tried explaining what free-speech really is. None of this is working, these people are not listening. Sometimes, to get people to listen, you have to get their attention. A fist in the face generally gets people’s attention and makes them understand that there’s an issue to be addressed.
        The situation with piracy in Somalia did not end until the owners of the shipping companies started putting mercenaries on their ships, and pirates started dying. They tried numerous other solutions, but it took a similar level of violence to what the Pirates were using to stop the trouble.
        I despise violence, I hate suggesting this is the solution… But the realist in me says that that time has now come.

        1. in a way this exposes why for millenia the ancients did not adhere too closely to any notion like free speech in the first place. speech freedoms can be misused for the harm of society, reason does not always win, and sometimes bullies can only be stopped with force. now every law is a form of organized violence, call it what you will, but laws like “RICO” cut off all sorts of formerly “free speech” and reclassified it as racketeering. Criminal object plus conspiracy plus various actions taken in furtherance of the conspiracy = lock them up.

          So, in my mind, the plans of protesters to silence others with their unruly protests is just a form of racketeering and I would absolutely prosecute it as such. If you need to amend the statute and add “silencing” or “hecklers veto protests” to the predicate list then do it.

          And if not then they will find the people are going to rebel against it. In fact ANTIFA seeks to elicit a violent response, just not too violent a response. The response should be crushing and then it will be sufficient.

          Futher piddling around will doom whatever latitude of debate still exists to becoming obsolete.

    3. Yet again Prof Turley do you tacitly endorse violence? “these fascists on the left need to get a lesson at the end of a fist”. Not only is this factually stupid on several levels fascism is and always will be a function of rightwing ideology and here this person is looking to violently attack people with no justification.

      1. Hey grunge… If you have issues, don’t address Professor Turley… Address me directly. In other words, quit being a leftist wussy and grow a bigger set. You are quite obviously part of the problem. Your observation that violence is a right wing trait is completely false. I recommend you look up the records of people like Stalin, Mao, Castro and other communist dictators, and as you do so, remember that each one of them was also against free speech.
        Now, the question is… Do you have the intellectual integrity to debate with me, or will you just continue your one sided onanistic comments here?

    4. Canuck,
      Reagan famously said: If you want more of something, subsidize it; if you want less of something, tax it.

      Of course it was to be taken literally, but it is also something we should take figuratively. Law is force against our nature (tax). The absence of law enables our nature to do its will (subsidy). In Bastiat’s The Law, he roots his entire book on the perverse use of the law (weaponize) to oppress non-favored classes. I do not see this degree of understanding for the purpose of the law (and government) happening peacefully.

      A Fatal Tendency of Mankind
      Self-preservation and self-development are common aspirations among all people. And if everyone enjoyed the unrestricted use of his faculties and the free disposition of the fruits of his labor, social progress would be ceaseless, uninterrupted, and unfailing.

      But there is also another tendency that is common among people. When they can, they wish to live and prosper at the expense of others. This is no rash accusation. Nor does it come from a gloomy and uncharitable spirit. The annals of history bear witness to the truth of it: the incessant wars, mass migrations, religious persecutions, universal slavery, dishonesty in commerce, and monopolies. This fatal desire has its origin in the very nature of man — in that primitive, universal, and insuppressible instinct that impels him to satisfy his desires with the least possible pain.

      Property and Plunder
      Man can live and satisfy his wants only by ceaseless labor; by the ceaseless application of his faculties to natural resources. This process is the origin of property.

      But it is also true that a man may live and satisfy his wants by seizing and consuming the products of the labor of others. This process is the origin of plunder.

      Now since man is naturally inclined to avoid pain — and since labor is pain in itself — it follows that men will resort to plunder whenever plunder is easier than work. History shows this quite clearly. And under these conditions, neither religion nor morality can stop it.

      When, then, does plunder stop? It stops when it becomes more painful and more dangerous than labor.

      It is evident, then, that the proper purpose of law is to use the power of its collective force to stop this fatal tendency to plunder instead of to work. All the measures of the law should protect property and punish plunder.

      But, generally, the law is made by one man or one class of men. And since law cannot operate without the sanction and support of a dominating force, this force must be entrusted to those who make the laws.

      This fact, combined with the fatal tendency that exists in the heart of man to satisfy his wants with the least possible effort, explains the almost universal perversion of the law. Thus it is easy to understand how law, instead of checking injustice, becomes the invincible weapon of injustice. It is easy to understand why the law is used by the legislator to destroy in varying degrees among the rest of the people, their personal independence by slavery, their liberty by oppression, and their property by plunder. This is done for the benefit of the person who makes the law, and in proportion to the power that he holds.

  4. The only way the ideas of the left can prevail is when they have a monopoly.
    If you want to see intolerance look to the progressives; if you want tyranny and violence, look to the into-fascists.
    Almost without exception, anything they protest about is what they do themselves.
    That is why I refuse to allow my Second Amendment Rights to be infringed.

  5. Sessions policies are highly questionable on criminal-justice issues. To that end, I would want him to speak. You give such people enough rope, and they hang themselves.

    To borrow a line attributed to Deep Throat, albeit applied to a different situation and person: “The protesters actions make Sessions look like a sympathetic figure. I didn’t think that was possible.

  6. “This anti-free speech trend constitutes an existential threat to the educational mission of high education.”
    ******************

    Well you had me until this. That “mission” died long ago. Now they’re into Goebbels studies.

  7. Censoring speech has become a badge of honor for some.

    Hmm? Let’s go to the way back machine (yesterday) and see if our very own Professor Turley has such a badge.

    I do not like the fliers and would have strongly encouraged a student not to post them.

    As JT likes to ask; what do you think?

    1. There’s nothing in Turley’s sentence that advocates censorship. I didn’t think much of the fliers he was talking about and would have felt free to tell the student.

      Turley was wrote this sentence in the context of insisting that they should have been allowed, and that it is “interesting” that an investigation has followed regarding hate speech.

      The entire paragraph: “I do not like the fliers and would have strongly encouraged a student not to post them. However, I often do not like speech that is at the center of free speech controversies. We do not need the First Amendment to protect popular speech.”

      1. So Professor Turley, since you would discourage a student from handing out the “it’s ok to be white” flyer, does that mean it is not ok to be White?

        Yes or no?

        The problem with the “Church of Woke” is that it is one without salvation.

        antonio

      2. There’s nothing in Turley’s sentence that advocates censorship.

        If a fellow student were to tell another student, I do not like the fliers, and I strongly encourage you not to not put them up, the response may very well be go f*** yourself. If a professor says that to one of his students, then the response will not likely be the same.

        Turley was wrote this sentence in the context of insisting that they should have been allowed,

        He does that. In this case he didn’t factor in the impact his power position will have on encouraging students to self-censor.

      1. Encouraging is not the same as censoring.

        Matt Lauer allegedly had a similar argument regarding what he considers consensual sex with his staff.

  8. It will be up to state governments to take action against university presidents. The Regents of the Univ of CA, for example, could remove any college president in the UC system who refuses to remove or take effective disciplinary action against faculty, staff or students who disrupt college activities. On the federal level, there are fewer possibilities. I supposed the Dept of Educ could refuse to approve student loans for any student who has been cited for serious misconduct, and the Dept of Energy could refuse grants to universities who don’t take control to suppress these disruptions. But the problem with the latter is that the money provided to UC Berkeley to run the nuclear labs benefits the federal govt as much as it benefits UCB. And the engineering students at UC are not the ones causing the disruptions, it’s the affirmative action and snowflake students who major in programs that nobody cares about. The alumni could step up as well. The rich alums who underwrite the cost of new buildings and labs at UCB tend to be graduates of the computer sci, engineering and business programs, and thus not likely to be antifa supporters, lol, but once again, they tend to support their own particular majors and pretty much ignore the loud leftists chanting down in Sproul Plaza.

  9. The 10 amenities to the Constitution of the United State. According to your social credit score and surveillance index, you citizen, may have 10 hours of restricted free speech a month! This is USG in the not too distant future. In the meantime we have plenty of people ready to turn over other’s rights while demanding to keep their own.

    Stand together and fall together.

  10. Here’s a municipal council meeting in Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago. This is the liberal Id at work.

      1. You’ll notice she packed the room with her supporters. The meltdown was planned in advance.

        It’s unlikely most people who voted in the most recent election had any idea she was an obnoxious fanatic. Now some of them do. Next election, if she runs, you’ll get to see what share of the electorate is willing to sit still for this behavior.

        1. To some extent this is happening presently in Seattle. The votes are not fully counted as of yet, but it seems clear that the city-state’s greatest embarrassment, Councilwoman Kshama Sawant, will lose to her challenger. Other, lesser incumbents are in trouble also.

          Personally I believe that Seattle gets the politicians and trouble it deserves. Ordinarily I do not like to see corporations pump money into elections, but Amazon and various businesses finally had enough with the anti-business attitude and trashing of the city’s largest private employers that they spent over a million on opposition candidates, but Seattle’s government is so utterly broken and dysfunctional the logjam had to be broken somehow.

          A close friend of mine said fifteen or twenty years ago that a person would have to “fail an IQ test” in order to serve in Seattle’s city government. It has gotten much more ridiculous now than it ever was then.

          While it would be agreeable to see some form of sanity take hold in the city’s government, if it fails to do so at least much of the rest of Washington can benefit by having Seattle become the dumping ground for all of the state’s refuse and being a magnet for political idiocy and foolishness. That way the rest of the state may be cleansed and spared the aggravation.

          1. “The votes are not fully counted as of yet, but it seems clear that the city-state’s greatest embarrassment, Councilwoman Kshama Sawant, will lose to her challenger.”
            ***********************
            Influx of corporate money did in Comrade sawant. Must really gall her the capitalism smashed her dreams.

            1. I read today that her opposition discovered through public disclosure requests that Con-rad Sawant’s campaign team bought printers, tables, and other sundry items from Amazon. Funny it is that she found the price and convenience of free delivery preferable to price controls, shortages, and standing in line for what’s available at the government store.

              Amazon.com…The choice of all socialist idealists.

    1. I suppose more viewers might be enticed to watch her tirade if presented with the possibility of in the end seeing a demon rip its way out of her to a chorus of nefarious B Movie music.

    2. The truly sad part is that nobody called her out for being a racist bully. These men if that term may be used to describe them, stuttered sheepishly instead of standing on their hind legs and telling her where to get off.

      Substitute 2 black men for these men? and have her say they should shut up because they have never been white. She would have been torn limb from limb. I am black and I abhor this new racist trend brought to us by the same party that brought us the old Jim Crow.

  11. These actions are fully condoned by the university administration. It’s not going to stop until these liberal admins are judged personally liable in civil court for the deprivation of civil rights of the event speakers. Their politics and bureaucratic arrogance conditions them to feel invincible or at least having the belief that if sued it will be “other people’s money” that will be affected.

    The protesting students are mere useful idiots to disruptors who hide in the background. Confronting the student protesters is only a tactical measure. People who want to stand up for civil rights need to think strategically and hold the faculty, politicians, and well invested liberals responsible for taking away our liberty.

    1. Agreed. Some dean loses his house and his TIAA-CREF accounts, this may stop. The question is, does federal civil rights law provide for civil liability in these cases? Or might it if you have state university administrators in cahoots with private parties?

    2. Note, trustee nonfeasance in these cases. The three administrators responsible for the Gibson’s bakery catastrophe at Oberlin are still employed there.

      1. Lois Lerner’s top deputies are still employed at the IRS. And ol’ Lois herself is comfortably retired with a full pension, living a life of luxury in Potomac MD. No accountability in govt or quasi-governmental institutions.

  12. Free speech is critical. I oppose this “silence disagreement” policy. It’s destructive and wrong no matter who does it.

  13. This anti-free speech trend constitutes an existential threat to the educational mission of high education. Too many of us on faculties are silent in the face of this intolerance.

    The louts preventing sessions from speaking are in and of themselves inconsequential. They are, however, agents of the faculty and administration, which is the reason they are not punished. Your colleagues are silent because they do not disapprove of this sort of thing, or do not disapprove to such a degree that they’re willing to do anything about it. (They do disapprove of putting a faculty member in the emergency room, which is why a small corps of louts at Middlebury received slaps on the wrist). NB institutions are not meticulous about procedure in regard to student disciplinary matters, so that’s not preventing any action.

  14. Wonder what would happen if a group of Federalist Society protesters disrupted a BLM or La Raza speaker?

    To ask is to answer it.

    These “fascists” would be charged with a hate crime and face federal prosecution.

    And leftists see nothing wrong or inconsistent with that.

    I want a divorce.

    antonio

  15. JT, This is wrong. Jeff Sessions should be able to speak. Now I am asking if you will please address the USG’s attempt to end, and I do mean END, the first amendment via their prosecution of Julian Assange.

    It isn’t understandable to me that every civil libertarian, let alone a professor of Constitutional law, isn’t screaming about this case. Not one of us will have the right to free speech or freedom of the press after this case is finished. It simply will not matter if you are an old white racist or a young black racist. Rich or poor, any gender, any color– the first amendment will be an amenity granted to people as a favor by this so called government.

    You aren’t speaking out about this. Our own “reporters” and editors, who think they are immune, are not immune from fiat decisions of this and other governments, no matter how obsequious to those governments they may be.

    Even if you have a lot of money, you aren’t going to be protected. That means, you and your family are only protected for some free speech if the govt. decides you’re worth of it. When you’re not worthy, they let you know and you can go to jail. If a professor of Constitutional law can’t see what is happening or sees it but won’t speak up, who are we as a nation? We are a nation of cowards who let others suffer in hopes that we get to keep a few crumbs for ourselves. Well, that is how we lose our Republic- being cowards when we need courage. Being silent when we need the will to speak up!

  16. “There’s a limitation to free speech. That ends at overtly racist old white dudes.”

    And here you have the reason for the flyer “It’s OK to be white.”

  17. The Leftists of cancel culture are racist and oppose free speech. Typical unjust, tyrannical behavior.

    Want this in Congress or the White House? Then vote Democrat.

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