This month, we witnessed another assault on a public figure by an increasingly aggressive element of American politics. The book signing event was disrupted and Steve Forbes was assaulted by protesters who did not want others to be able to speak with or hear him. The fact that this was a literary event is particularly fitting given the effort of many to prevent free expression in our society. Ironically, the book is titled “Stolen Youth: How Radicals Are Erasing Innocence and Indoctrinating a Generation.”
Forbes was present at a book signing for the new book written by authors Bethany Mandel and Karol Markowicz. Protesters disrupted the event by throwing drinks and books at him and toppling over a display. Forbes reportedly identified two of the protesters as Black Lives Matter activists who were yelling when they came into the event.
Mandel, a mother of six and CEO of Forbes, says that her newborn baby was also struck in the assault.
The attack came after years of pandering to the mob by politicians, writers, and academics. Political figures like Rep. Maxine Waters (D., Cal.) have called for activists to harass conservatives in public places and “push back on them and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.” Law professors like Georgetown Law Professor Josh Chafetz declared that “when the mob is right, some (but not all!) more aggressive tactics are justified.”
Blocking others from speaking is not the exercise of free speech. It is the very antithesis of free speech. Nevertheless, faculty have supported such claims. 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. (Bilek later cancelled herself and resigned).
This dangerous trend in academia is discussed in my law review article, Jonathan Turley, “Harm and Hegemony: The Decline of Free Speech in the United States”, Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy.
Someone is going to be hurt as politicians, professors, and pundits fuel this rage. Forbes is 75 years old and, while he appears in good health, this type of assault can easily trigger a medical emergency for many individuals due to age or preexisting conditions. It is incredibly irresponsible and reprehensible to encourage such public confrontations.