Wayne State Professor Suspended After Declaring that it is “More Admirable” to Shoot Down than Shout Down Conservative Speakers

A professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, has been suspended after posting threatening statements on social media posts that suggested that people would be justified in killing speakers who hold opposing views on issues like transgender policies. Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson released a statement saying that an unnamed professor in the school’s English department made a social media post that is “at best, morally reprehensible and, at worst, criminal.” College Fix identified that professor as Steven Shaviro, who writes in the areas of film, music videos, and science fiction literature.

Wilson stated

“This morning, I was made aware of a social media post by a Wayne State University professor in our Department of English. We have on many occasions defended the right of free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but we feel this post far exceeds the bounds of reasonable or protected speech. It is, at best, morally reprehensible and, at worst, criminal.”

On one level, a suspension could be viewed as a necessary proactive step to guarantee that there is no real danger in this circumstance. Indeed, we have seen a strikingly different treatment given to academics on the right as opposed to the left in such actions.

Many conservative or libertarian professors find themselves suspended or under investigation for controversial tweets or jokes. Conversely, it is comparably rare to see such action against those on the left who use inflammatory language including professors advocating “detonating white people,” denouncing policecalling for Republicans to suffer,  strangling police officerscelebrating the death of conservativescalling for the killing of Trump supporters, supporting the murder of conservative protesters and other outrageous statements.

The most analogous case is that of University of Rhode Island professor Erik Loomis, who defended the murder of a conservative protester and said that he saw “nothing wrong” with such acts of violence. Yet, those extreme statements from the left are rarely subject to cancel campaigns or university actions.

I have generally supported academics on both sides on free speech and academic freedom grounds.

Loomis and Shaviro are examples of the violent rhetoric and intolerance of some in academia.

However, as will come as little surprise to many on this blog, I have concerns over more than a temporary suspension to investigate the matter. The intent of Dr. Shaviro is actually less clear than has been suggested in the press.

At the start, Shaviro insists that he does not advocate “violating federal and state criminal codes.” He then makes the violent reference as being better than shouting down opposing speakers. He warns that the left is being attacked for cancelling speakers when the debate should be over what Shaviro calls their own “reprehensible views.” He insists that these are efforts to trigger such responses to provoke an incident that discredits the left.”

Shaviro makes the extreme argument that “it is more admirable to kill a racist, homophobic, transphobic speaker than to shout them down.” He then makes this point even more menacing by referencing the assassination of Symon Petliura by Jewish anarchist Sholem Schwarzbard in 1926. Petliura was blamed for the killings of thousands of Jews during pogroms and Schwarzbard was acquitted.

Shaviro’s main point appears to be that the continued use of “deplatforming” or cancelling conservative speakers is ill-advised. He notably does not oppose such anti-free speech efforts as inimical to higher education, but only because they backfire in the press. In that sense, Shaviro appears no ally to free speech.

However, his rhetoric may be more reckless than intentional in encouraging violence.

The question is how the university should handle such extreme and chilling language. This was not expressed in class and was done through Shaviro’s personal social media. Like Ilya Shapiro at Georgetown, it was a poorly considered tweet, though (unlike Shapiro) Shaviro has not taken down the tweet. In Shapiro’s case, he was put through a long investigation and the university effectively forced him off the faculty.

There is one difference between Shapiro and Shaviro (beyond a single letter): Wayne State University is a state school and subject to the full weight of the First Amendment. Shaviro could challenge the action as a denial of his free speech rights.

Once again, I believe an initial suspension could be upheld as the university assesses a danger. However, Shaviro does not appear a direct threat to others. Moreover, he can point to his precatory language on complying with state and federal law as negating the violent interpretation of his critics. He can also point to the word “more” as reflecting his point. He says it is “more admirable” than shouting down speakers. That does not mean that it is admirable or commendable (though his reference to Schwarzbard remains concerning). He was engaging in what I have called in my academic writings “rage rhetoric.” In my view, this is protected speech.

Shaviro’s words are worthy of our condemnation. However, a federal court could well order reinstatement if anything other than a temporary suspension for investigation is ordered by the university.

83 thoughts on “Wayne State Professor Suspended After Declaring that it is “More Admirable” to Shoot Down than Shout Down Conservative Speakers”

  1. As disgusting as the “professor’s” (I use that term loosely) comments are, they are protected by the 1st Amendment. If you state that you support the 1st Amendment and free speech, then you cannot censor speech which is hateful, disgusting or any other adjective you want to use to show your displeasure with it.

    There is a long line of Supreme Court cases, e.g., Brandenburg v. Ohio 395 U.S. 444, where the Court held that inflammatory speech–and even speech advocating violence by members of the Ku Klux Klan–is protected under the First Amendment, unless the speech “is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” The Court went on to state that “inflammatory speech–and even speech advocating violence by members of the Ku Klux Klan–is protected under the First Amendment….”

    Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in Snyder v. Phelps (2011):

    “Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and — as it did here — inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker. As a Nation we have chosen a different course — to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.”

    Either we have free speech or we don’t. If you don’t like the speech, ignore it. Once we start down the road to defining what speech is acceptable which speech is not, then we are heading down the road to a totalitarian society.

    We see that currently unfolding by the attempts by Dems/libs/progressives to redefine free speech, redefine biology, redefine the meaning of words or the invention of new words, redefine morality, redefine right and wrong.

    Anything the left doesn’t like they redefine as hate speech, hateful conduct, racism, misogyny, etc., in effect suppressing the ideas they don’t like by labeling those who express them.

    Professor Turley is correct, the way you counter bad speech is with more free speech, not censorship.

  2. Does anyone else find it incredible that Professor Shaviro’s post makes such blanket accusations that conservatives are racist, homophobe, etc. without providing any specificity? This is something I see often from the left, especially when were talking about university professors. However, I don’t think it’s because they are not intelligent or ignorant of the facts. Rather, I believe they are quite intelligent — intelligent enough to know that their logic and arguments supporting their accusations are so weak and unfounded they would never hold to up to the challenges open discussion and debate would bring. Hopefully, the gullible students they are now influencing will be intelligent enough to see this some day.

    1. No it’s not surprising at all. It’s the modus operandi of Dems/libs/progressives and every other totalitarian society that has existed throughout history (which is not her subject they don’t teach).

  3. Imagine the aftermath of an on-campus murder of a conservative speaker… found among the killer’s possession is a copy of Shaviro’s post, a piece of evidence of great interest to attorney’s representing the victim’s survivors, desperate in their search for deep pockets. The question then becomes, have Wayne State’s coffers been put in jeopardy? Maybe, just maybe, the answer will depend on how the institution responded when its employee, upon whom it bestowed the prestige and influence associated with a professorship, opined it more admirable to shoot rather than shout down conservative speakers.

    Will the claim that he “does not advocate violating state and federal criminal codes” provide the coward the cover intended? Not in my opinion, given that it is, and has been, clear to all that the outraged, emotionally-charged activists at whom his post is aimed do not share his aversion to breaking the law. Just as a teetotaling bartender cannot protect himself from liability for over-serving a hard-drinking patron by pointing to a “Don’t Drink and Drive” sign behind his bar, the recklessness demonstrated by this weasel is indefensible.

    1. Stochastic terrorism threats coming from a disgraced twice impeached ex President doesn’t count in your book?

    2. The Dems/libs/progressives want the violence and division to escalate. They want societal norms crushed. If you look at the rise of Hitler/Nazism in Germany in the late 1920s, and their rise to power in the early 1930s, you’ll see an eerie similarity to the Dems/libs/progressive’s tactics and beliefs.

      They both demonize those who disagreed with them or those they identified as less than human. The Nazis dehumanized Jews, Gypsies, those of Slavic heritage, and anyone who disagreed with them or was not of pure Germanic descent.

      The Dems/libs/progressives demonize Republicans, Independents, and ordinary Americans as hateful, bigoted, racist (a word that has no meaning any more because it’s anyone who disagrees them), homophobic, islamophopic, transphobic, and all the other “phobics,” to the status of vermin.

      For the Nazis/Germans it made exterminating the “vermin” easy. They weren’t murdering human beings, they were simply ridding the world of the pestilence of vermin that were poisoning their purity. A simple solution.

      Dems/libs/progressives are in the process of doing the same thing, thus the unnamed professors statement. He’s not advocating murder, but simply riding the planet of vermin.

      What did Keith Olbermann say? Trump supporters “must be removed from our society.” In other word, anyone who disagrees with the Dem/libs/progressive party line need to be removed from society. To where? Reeducation camps, prisons, or maybe he would prefer extermination camps?

      The degree of separation between Olbermann, and the Dems/libs/progressives, who both want to redefine which “free speech” and thoughts are acceptable, and Hitler/Nazi Germany is almost non distinguishable.

      That’s why the 1st Amendment is so vital to a free society. If Olbermann, et al, had their way, we would never hear anything but the approved speech. We all know where they led Germany, and every other totalitarian regime in history.

  4. I guess the eminent Professor from Wayne State is not a fan of Isaac Asimov and the Weapon Shop of Isher. Of course the Weapons from the Weapon Shops could only be used for self defense. I don’t think this fellow will be accorded a place among the great writers of Science Fiction. I agree with simply ignoring him but I think that (for fun) we should refer him to the FBI and see if he gets banned from buying a weapon in the future. Or if Michigan has a Red Flag law he should be reported and then we see how it is handled.

  5. The only thing I use the Washington Post for is the crossword puzzles and today when going to them I saw a bunch of ads for Tik Tok. This is how the CCP is taking over the country, by buying silence from tech, media and Hollywood. Khrushchev said 60 years ago that “when the Soviets hang America they will sell us the rope”.

    We saw just this week dim bulb AOC join Tik Tok and it then came out that she is involved with a group that received a large donation from Tik Tok recently. We have some of our own reps and senators defending this breach of security and we even had our own Dementia patient in chief go on the app this week to appeal to young people.

    We are being bought out by our enemy, the CCP, giving tons of money to a group of American financial Quislings and it will be our downfall.

  6. Shaviro’s comments remind me of this clip of progressive socialist Geroge Bernard Shaw casually talking about all of the people he’d like to see killed.


    The speech of neither Shaviro nor Shaw seems to be a direct threat.

    Yet both are evil – while wrapping themselves in a fake morality.

    In Shaw’s time, progressives enacted forced sterilization laws to prevent people progressives don’t like from reproducing; promoted aborting black babies; gave lobotomies to children who didn’t behave exactly right, etc.

  7. …peacefully and patriotically protest.


    it is more admirable to kill a racist, homophobic, transphobic speaker than to shout them down.

    Aw shucks, that’s just free speech.

    Both are free speech.

    1. Publicly advocating murder is “free speech”? Hmmmm…….sounds like something Hanoi Jane would say.

  8. Mr. Shaviro skillfully added that he “does not advocate violating state and federal criminal codes” for maintaining his employment at Wayne State in order to soften his REAL feelings that “it is far more admirable to kill a racist, homophobic, or transphobic speaker”. He definitely wants it both ways. Such a clever little Communist. Thank you, Jonathan, for an excellent article.

  9. So you what to go to gun?

    Another knucklehead of the National Socialist Democrat WOKE Party.

    700 million guns and you seek Revolution?

    Say when.

  10. In the left’s feverish fascistic mind it is more dangerous for a federal judge to “mis-gender” a convicted pedophile than it is to say it may be better to murder the judge than to shout him down.

    I agree with Professor Turley about 95% of the time, but he is way to accommodating to the very people that will demand that more benign speech is eradicated. The Constitution is not a suicide pact, as has been stated, and we should not be forced to countenance threats of murder for such crimes as calling for people born as a male to be barred from females sports, bathrooms and locker rooms.

    Putting aside free speech issues, should a university allow a man calling for the murder of people he deems to be on the wrong side of some issues to be teaching 19-23 year old students?

  11. According to Wayne State profile and CV, he graduated from college in 1975 with a BA in English (LOL), and since then he has won 1 award:

    “Science Fiction and Technoculture Studies Book Award for Discognition, July 2017”

    Assuming he was 22 when he graduated in 1975, that puts him at age ~ 70….with 1 award in his field: science fiction.
    But of course

    there is no announcement from the administration of Wayne State U on their home page website. Then again, it’s not like he and his children were praying the rosary outside of an abortion center which would obviously merit an FBI raid and calling his children Nazis


  12. The twisted logic of the suspended professor, that speakers he disagrees are invited to discredit his views, is paranoia. And to call speakers who he disagrees with “racist,” “homophobic,” or “transphobic” seem to demonstrate that he is “other view phobic” which is both intolerant and anti-diversity. Further, how is his social media post not inciting violence?

  13. “He can also point to the word “more” as reflecting his point. He says it is “more admirable” than shouting down speakers. That does not mean that it is admirable or commendable (though his reference to Schwarzbard remains concerning). He was engaging in what I have called in my academic writings “rage rhetoric.” In my view, this is protected speech.”

    So if a mob boss were to say to an associate about a rival ‘it would be nice if so and so were no longer in the picture’, that would be okay?

  14. “The question is how the university should handle such extreme and chilling language.”

    I suggest WSU tests Shaviro’s theory and shoots him instead of any other form of censure…for science. Maybe he’s right?

  15. How should the university handle this? The same way 99.999999999999999% of the population handles it: IGNORE IT!

  16. I feel like we are all stuck in a Wane State.

    All the crazy is not a sin of advancement or improvement. 🙁

      1. Perhaps, like the moon, we can wax again. Soon. The Founding principles and all the associated Truth, Goodness, and Beauty are too precious to be lost to perpetual twilight.

        1. Prairie Rose,
          Things like the Founding principles are an anathema to woke leftists and can never stand up to things like the Truth. That is why the always tear down and destroy. They never build. They would rather burn it all down and live in the ash in perpetual twilight and take all others with them.

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