I have previously written about my criticism to Antifa and its anti-free speech agenda, including academics legitimizing efforts to violently curtail free speech on our campuses. It is tragically ironic therefore that the University of British Columbia has cancelled an event by a critic of Antifa, a decision that carries out precisely the goals of this vehemently anti-free speech organization. Portland journalist Andy Ngo was scheduled to speak on campus when the school, reportedly without notice, canceled the event due to an unspecified “concern about the safety and security of our campus community.”
The reference to security is an all-too-familiar excuse of universities to shutdown speakers, particularly conservative speakers, while insisting that the move is not content-based discrimination. Berkeley and other schools like DePaul University have used the mob to justify cancelling speakers. That institutionalizes the “Heckler’s Veto” so that a mob need only threaten violence and the school then cancels the speech . . . which is what the mob was demanding.
Even an event with former Attorney General Jeff Sessions was disrupted by the protesters. The cancellation of the Sessions event was another disgrace for Northwestern which has yielded to such tactics by students. It was 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.
Ngo was invited to speak at a January 29th event on “Understanding ANTIFA violence.” Ngo was assaulted while covering a protest in Portland.
I remain highly skeptical of these claims of security concerns that seem to consistently be applied to critics of Antifa or conservative speakers. Universities cannot fulfill our core mission if we are going to yield to such mob threats and harassment. This is doing the work of the mob — a triumph of the heckler’s veto.