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. Jonathan: You have frequently criticized the “curtailment of free speech” on university campuses”, especially conservative speech. Here’s a case that should get your attention. On Saturday Trump attended the LSU/Alabama football game. Ahead of the game the Alabama University student government warned “any organizations that engage in disruptive behavior” at the game would be removed and banned from games for the rest of the season. Many on campus interpreted this statement as a threat against any protest against Trump during the game. This didn’t stop some enterprising protesters from displaying the internationally known “Baby Trump” outside the stadium. One apparent Trump supporter decided to take the law into his own hands and used a knife to rip an 8 foot gash in the balloon. Do you think the statement by the Alabama University student government was also a “curtailment of free speech”?

  2. Sessions’ speech was NOT canceled – see the link to The Hill article. Prof. Turley should amend the post to address this fact – although it doesn’t comport with his apparently preconceived caricature of the protesting Northwestern students.

  3. I see nothing racist about Prof Turley’s remarks. He has the right under our Constitution to express his Opinion. Anyone else has an equal right. Depriving some of the right to express an opinion is unconstitutional. The person who defines acceptable language wins arguments by default. Your position is unacceptable, hurtful, hateful and can’t be considered. We win! I can’t think of a better example of fascism.

  4. Liberals and Democrats have created a fascist mentality for their base and unfortunately at our college campuses. Dems are unable to handle differing points of view because they have worked so hard to make their followers zombies to intersectionality and its hateful offspring. The Young Republicans should sue Northwestern for its unconstitutional actions and its unequal protection under the law. The Constitution and “the old white men” who wrote it were geniuses. Liberals are turning their Democrat followers into the brain dead in their quest for political power.

  5. If the speaker has previously made points hostile to some students on campus, should he be allowed to speak? Why should students who don’t identify as cis-gender individuals have to tolerate a speaker who has tried to take away their legal rights protecting them from discrimination? Why should immigrants and domestic violence victims have to tolerate a speaker who has impeded on immigration – especially domestic violence victims seeking asylum? And so forth… I do agree that higher education needs to do a better job of protecting free speech. But what is the line? When a speaker has expressed such hostile views about minorities, subjecting them to an unwelcoming environment and a fear for their safety, that speaker should not be invited on campus.

    1. Try defining ‘hostile’, ‘rights’ and ‘discrimination’ and provide quotations and examples ‘ere beclowning yourself further.

      1. Hostile: marked by malevolence : having or showing unfriendly feeling
        Example: Sessions allegedly using the N-word towards an African American colleague.

        Rights: a moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way.
        Example: Sessions infringing on transgender individuals’ right to protection from discrimination by interpreting Title VI to say it does not protect discrimination on the basis of gender identity. This comes after Holder previously interpreted Title VI to protect transgender individuals because ” ‘because of … sex’ includes discrimination because an employee’s gender identification is as a member of a particular sex, or because the employee is transitioning, or has transitioned, to another sex.”

        Discrimination: See above.

        1. This is hilarious….just fyi, once you give TIA your definitions, TIA never gets back to you…trust me, from experience.

        2. Hostile: marked by malevolence : having or showing unfriendly feeling
          Example: Sessions allegedly using the N-word towards an African American colleague.

          He allegedly insulted someone x decades ago, and it’s of interest to you. Because fool.

          Rights: a moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way.

          Example: Sessions infringing on transgender individuals’ right to protection from discrimination by interpreting Title VI to say it does not protect discrimination on the basis of gender identity. This comes after Holder previously interpreted Title VI to protect transgender individuals because ” ‘because of … sex’ includes discrimination because an employee’s gender identification is as a member of a particular sex, or because the employee is transitioning, or has transitioned, to another sex.”

          It doesn’t seem to occur to you that administrative agencies manufacturing semantic content that isn’t there is a nefarious activity. It also doesn’t seem to occur to you to ponder what someone’s privileges and immunities ought to be, and why they would trump someone else’s.

          Discrimination: See above.

          You haven’t answered me. People refuse to hire and do business with others as a matter of course. Why is the comfort and convenience of your preferred mascot groups of any interest to anyone else.

        3. You clearly do not understand what the term free-speech actually means. I suggest you learn it, before you try to rein it in.

    2. Concerned (but clueless):
      “If the speaker has previously made points hostile to some students on campus, should he be allowed to speak? Why should students who don’t identify as cis-gender individuals have to tolerate a speaker who has tried to take away their legal rights protecting them from discrimination? Why should immigrants and domestic violence victims have to tolerate a speaker who has impeded on immigration – especially domestic violence victims seeking asylum? And so forth…”
      ***************
      It’s a America. You have to be strong to live here. That means you have to hear things you don’t like, buttercup. Thems the rules. If you don’t like it, there’s always Yemen or some other hellhole made so by your woke totalitarian viewpoint.

      Amazing the idiots our schools and some families produce. And so forth ….

    3. Because that is the nature of a democratic society. If you resolve matters by force, then you have a society ruled by power not democracy. Are you seriously suggesting that the Catholics and Protestants of Northern Ireland should not tolerate each other’s speech because the other side is “trying to take away their rights”? That would be a recipe for the return of civil war. Is society not better for Co-existing peacefully?

  6. This is such a gross bad faith argument. Just a week ago the Rightwing Free Speech Warriors were totally silent and declared Booing the President at a WS game deserved retribution. Additionally, not all speech deserves to be heard not is Free Speech an absolute. Nazis deserve nothing and the Trump Administration are Nazis.

    1. Grunge Gene:
      “Just a week ago the Rightwing Free Speech Warriors were totally silent and declared Booing the President at a WS game deserved retribution. Additionally, not all speech deserves to be heard not is Free Speech an absolute. Nazis deserve nothing and the Trump Administration are Nazis.”
      ***********
      Your first sentence with its glaring contradiction in terms demonstrates your intellectual candlepower. The second sounds like what the Nazis said about Jews protesting their plight.

      Is German your native tongue? ‘Cause it surely isn’t English.

    2. GrungeGene,
      Godwin’s Rule isn’t an actual requirement; it’s more of an observation about those who use certain tactics in lieu of actual debate.

  7. these young college punks are gonna get whats coming to them,you better remind your self that old white men died by the thousands in war to save America,i v never seen the multitude of young idiots walking aound causing trouble,educated idiots,big mouths,none stop violence.won’t work ,at all, but they will complain and cause trouble.unthankful,full of lies,dunkedness,pill popin dope heads,they all have one thing in common,they know it all,everyone else that is trying to work,pay taxes and be honest,they hate them and on the way home from work,the idiots block the road and cause trouble.all you libearal idoits,if you don t like your country,move out,go to another country you brain dead liberals.

    1. Prof Turley,

      Do you endorse this type of threatening rhetoric “these young college punks are gonna get whats coming to them” on your site? By making such a disingenuous argument about campus free speech? Sessions doesn’t deserve a platform nor is he entitled to one?

  8. “…Overtly racist old white dudes…”

    – Professor Turley
    _______________

    Americans are “…free white person(s)…” per the Naturalization Acts of 1790, 1795, 1798 and 1802 which constituted the original intent of the American Founders. But for the illegal and unconstitutional acts of “Crazy Abe” Lincoln and his criminal and corrupt successors, the naturalization requirement of the American Founders would be extant.

    “Crazy Abe” Lincoln was a tyrant, despot and an illegal, unconstitutional aberration that won 1860 by 38.9%, a la Hitler, and 1864 by brute military force. His successors were similarly dictatorial and illegitimate as were and are the unconstitutional “Reconstruction Amendments” which were improperly ratified at gunpoint under the duress of brutal post-war military occupation.

    On the date of the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Naturalization Act of 1802 was in full force and effect causing the status of slaves to change from that of property to illegal alien requiring immediate deportation. No person may benefit from a criminal act, therefore, freed slaves and their descendants must be deported.
    _________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “…free white person…”

    Federal naturalization laws (1790, 1795, 1798, 1892).

    United States Congress, “An act to establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization” (March 26, 1790).

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That any Alien being a free white person, who shall have resided within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States for the term of two years, may be admitted to become a citizen thereof…

  9. Ahh, the black shirts are at it again. I am one who believes history is destined to keep repeating itself. Brown shirts, black shirts, is there any difference?

  10. When will these educated people start dressing the rite way……….you know brown shirts with arm bands. Yup next stop re-education camps.

  11. I sponsor a 529 scholarship for a high school student who has that school on his list. I am calling him after I get off this comment and will advise that the account will not go for him to go to that so called college or so called university.

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