Conservative speakers like Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos were labeled bomb-throwers by some of the speakers on a panel addressing free speech and protests on campuses, while other speakers were largely given a pass or promoted.
The panel took place June 1 at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and was sponsored by the Education Writers Association. The panel presented what was probably a good representation of bias in academia and higher education. The most balanced and objective of the four speakers may have been a student at the University of California at Berkeley, Pranav Jandhyala. Yiannopoulos planned to talk at the University of California Berkeley campus February, but was forced to cancel because of violent protests.
The panel speakers included Scott Jaschik, co-founder and editor of Inside Higher Ed, Greg Lukianoff, president, (FIRE) Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Shapiro, Teagle Foundation, and Jandhyala. Jandhyala is the founder of BridgeUSA, a Berkeley campus organization that seeks to bridge the political speech gap between liberal and conservative students.
Coulter cancelled her appearance at the Berkeley campus in April as a result of protests, and Charles Murray, the author of The Bell Curve, was attacked at Middlebury College after a visit there in May. As well, a Middlebury academic who interviewed Murray, Allison Stanger, was injured by protesters.
While Jaschik, Lukianoff and Shapiro spent plenty of time talking about how Yiannopoulos and Coulter were extreme, none of them entertained the possibility that the academic environment at Berkeley and Middlebury might be responsible for the lawless, disrespectful attitude and intolerance at both campuses. Only Jandhyala suggested the students who were unwilling to listen to opposing views were intolerant.
According to reports, 100 to 150 students at Middlebury students participated in the unrest in Vermont. (The college is located the city with the same name). Yet, none of them were suspended or expelled as a result of the incident.
Jaschik said the problem with repercussions at Berkeley, where students likely participated in violence that resulted in property damage, is that the school did not investigate the incident to determine who the perpetrators were. Some of the students admitted to being involved in the campus newspaper, he said. Berkeley students and activists caused more than $100,000 worth of damage to school property during the incident.
Yiannopoulos and (Ben) Shapiro have both been blocked from speaking while on stage after campus speaking events began, with people standing or walking on stage. At DePaul University in Chicago, Yiannopoulos was verbally threatened and attacked on stage by a black female, while another black male walked back and forth across the stage. He visited the campus in May of 2016, when he was accosted on stage. Campus police at DePaul watched as protesters stormed the stage, but did nothing to restore order.
Stanger was injured during Murray incident when masked protesters began pushing and shoving she and Murray, according to a New York Times report. She suffered a concussion after someone grabbed her hair and twisted her neck. Murray's book, The Bell Curve, presents a statistical survey of race and intelligence.
But controversy in academia is largely in the eye of the beholder. The Vagina Monologues perhaps contains some of the most offensive speech of any event on campus, yet it is welcomed and even promoted by liberal academia and the media, as something to be embraced by campuses.
The irony is that though Jandhyala is a student at Berkeley and a journalist, his views represented the most balanced of the four panelists. He has personal experience with the Milo Berkeley protests. While covering it as a journalist, he said he was beaten.
Student and academia tolerance reversal
In 2013, 2014, the people who demanded new speech codes were students, Lukianoff said. Before that, he said, they were the victims of free speech violations by campus officials. He said the reversal is surprising if not shocking, meaning students are now demanding that officials restrict speech on campuses, or worse. But again, he spoke as though the students demanded speech restrictions in a vacuum, when in fact it is largely the result of college professors, and liberal attitudes about conservatives and general misinformation about what people like Coulter write and believe.
“Allison Stanger was actually hurt,” he said. “There were students hit in the face with metal flagpoles.”
Lukianoff also claimed that all of the violence is not the result of politics, when it actually is the result of political thinking, or more to the point, that people who are considered controversial are supporters of or at least lean toward supporting Trump. So the disturbances are in fact the result of political thinking.
Shapiro said she was against safe spaces and trigger warnings. But then said there is a problem with the quality of speech (among speakers). She was also condescending to conservatives, claiming that many of them could not identify William F. Buckley. She was perhaps the most interesting if not irrational in her views of which speakers to invite.
“Students and academics should treat speakers as a collection of free market ideas,” she said.
The problem is that at present on college campuses, students and professors are not open to bringing conservatives speakers to campus, a fact that Jandhyala readily admitted.
He said conservative (students) invite provocative speakers. But they are considered controversial or provocative because he attends Berkeley and is in the middle of a liberal storm where conservative commentary or speech is not supported by college administrators.
So there really is not a free market of ideas on college campuses. In fact, at all of the college campuses mentioned, conservative speakers, with few exceptions, were not invited by student representatives or a majority of professors or the college administration. So Shapiro's theory does not work in practice, because she does not encourage it.
Prandhayla said BridgeUSA is supposed to be a place that “seeks to create space where all views and opinions are welcome, but are going to be challenged through debate and discussion. Rather than trying to (support) free speech for free speeches sake, we feel that we are trying to protect free speech for the driving purpose behind free speech.”
Jandhyala said he started the group when he talked to people who said they can’t “fathom how people would vote for Trump or what’s going on inside the heads of these individuals.”
Another speaker was invited with Coulter to speak at the Berkeley campus. The problem is that the pro illegal immigration speaker was allowed to speak; but Ann Coulter was not. There was no mention of the pro illegal immigration speaker.
Jandlyala says the problem with the Coulter related violence was one of logistics and resources. But this is only partially true. In the environment of Berkeley, resources are what you make of them. If protesters are told they are not welcome, and you enforcement your guideline with police, they won’t be welcome. In all campus venues where campus police are present, hecklers are not immediately stopped or removed to restore order. In the case of the DePaul Yiannoupolos event, campus police watched and did nothing while Yiannoupolos was attacked.
The protester’s ability to shut down an event was referred to as the heckler’s veto, meaning the ability to stop or force someone to stop speaking or cancel the event by protest. The protesters cancel the ability to speak by disturbing the peace, which would seem to be a violation of the law in general terms. On liberal college campuses however, the actions of protesters are often viewed by academics as their own form of free speech.
In fact, many academics view something shocking, obscene or offensive on campus as a form of “free speech” that is protected speech - or a creative form of expression that is to be encouraged on campus.
Condescending toward conservative speech
Jaschik was in general condescending toward conservatives, labeling a libertarian conservative like Sen. Rand Paul as controversial. Paul may be the least controversial speaker at college campuses. Newt Gingrich is giving speeches as well, he said.
“I don’t know if they are converting anybody,” he said. “Whereas Ann and Milo are pretty much insulting everybody. Regardless of whether they agree with you. It’s hard to think of (them) as giving speeches about ideas.”
Though Lukianoff represents an organization that purported to be balanced and represent all students, he was biased against conservatives as well.
“They would not have caused so much attention if they had not caused riots,” he said. Of course this is no factual. Milo is controversial because he presents a rational and reasoned response to liberalism. For that reason he is popular with conservatives and unpopular with liberals.
“Bomb throwers, both of them (Coulter and Youanopolis),” Lukianoff referring to Coulter and Milo.
Lukianoff said there were 1,500 people who showed up at the Coulter event; 150 of those were protesters who caused violence.
But the concern, he said, is that the university made no effort to find out if students were causing the problems or being destructive and press charges against the students. In effect, Berkeley gave the most violent students a free pass to instigate violence at any future event they do not like. It was a similar story at Middlebury.
‘If you want to have free speech, there has to be consequences for violence,” he said. “Now that there’s not, you are essentially creating an environment where there’s a heckler’s veto.”
Shapiro well represented the condescending attitude:
“I think Ann Coulter is a self-promoting light weight, who has a dreadful mean streak,” Shapiro said.
Lukianoff responded with, “‘No, she’s actually had some worthwhile things to say that we can really learn from.’ Then you have a discussion based on Ann Coulter that remotely resembles evidence and reason, which I think should be good things to foster, along with free speech.”
To his credit, Jandhyala said campus students and administrators should support inviting a large spectrum of speakers - both left and right.
Jaschik consistently spoke condescendingly about Coulter, even saying “most people would not put Salman Rushdie and Ann Counter in the same group,” meaning, the same security cost to have Rushdie speak would not be worth spending to have Coulter speak.
As well, Shapiro thinks Milo does not represent a quality speaker in her view.
“Why a university would spend it’s hard earned money on someone like Milo is beyond understanding for me, and it’s certainly not in line with it’s mission of teaching and learning,” she said.
Again, the student, Jandhyala was the most balanced: The higher security fee is prohibitive for controversial speakers and amounts to a tax, he said, because the people inviting the speakers are not responsible for the violence.
“When you give into threats of violence, you basically are allowing the violent agitators to be successful even before they land one punch, and I think that’s a very dangerous precedence to set,” he said.
He also said Shapiro’s guide for determining the quality of speakers would also be a dangerous precedent.
Lukianoff said campuses regularly invited Lenny Bruce and George Carlin, both of whom were profane and obscene in their presentation. So is it a double standard? To Shapiro, no.
But again, Shapiro shows her bias when she says Bruce “could stand up to Milo Youanapolis” in terms of quality. This statement makes no sense, except to reveal that Shapiro prefers some language that is offensive and not others.
While Milo may be offensive, he is no less offensive than comics who have mocked and disparaged Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary for Donald J. Trump. In fact Chelsea Handler recently mocked Sanders with an interview of an overweight look alike on her show.
Jaschik admits that the environment that conservatives are in is one where their views are generally suppressed.
He even claimed that someone like Milo did not exist 30 - 40 years ago, when in fact there was a very large radical presence with people like Bill Ayers promoting anarchy in the U.S. The group represented actual bomb planters. In 1969, Ayers co-founded the Weather Underground, a self-described communist revolutionary group with the intent to overthrow imperialism. It conducted a campaign of bombing public buildings, including police stations, the U.S. Capitol Building and the Pentagon during the 60s and 70s in response to U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
Again, the student was more balanced: Jandhyala said he would be in favor of a professors supporting a wide variety of opinions in the classroom, and is attempting to create a faculty coalition that will preserve a wide variety of perspectives on any issue they talk about in the classroom.
The conservatives as radicals refrain was seconded by Scott Travis, a reporter with the Sun Sentinel, Ft. Lauderdale, FL - one of those asking questions of the panel. He said some people would classify what Milo says as hate speech, or like Archie Bunker to get “people talking about race, even though it is not rational or reasonable.”
“Someone who’s not really known for anything but their hatred,” Travis said. “Some people see Milo that way. That’s what we were wondering where the line is.”
But Lukianoff rebutted Travis’ idea: ”It’s valuable to know what people think, especially if it’s bad,” but then admits that the presidential election result was somewhat strange.
Prandhuyala said he was “on board” with inviting Ann Coulter to speak because he wanted people to not feel isolated.
“We wanted people to say, ‘Hey, my voice is being represented with this speaker. If you view her as hateful, then why don’t you challenge her. Invite someone beyond what most people think is reasonable, is because it can be brought into an environment where people can disagree with it.
Lukainoff said what happened at Middlebury and Berkeley were “small” acts of dissent.
The political science department at Middlebury that invited Murray seemed to agree. As co-sponsors of they somehow rescinded the offer. They later apologized to the college. Shouldn't they have apologized to Murray?
Like Milo and Coulter, Israel free speech and assembly rights are regularly violated on college campuses, Jashik said. At one college, a taste of Israel event was marred by pro-Palestinian protests.
The one exception to this rule is the Palestinian professor, Steven Salaita, who was denied a spot at the University of Illinois Urbana, after the school offered him a teaching position. He was left left without a home and a job as a result of the action by college trustees at U of I. He was denied the position because of his offensive Tweets about Israel's bombing of the Gaza strip, south of Israel. A U of I student produced 1,500 signatures opposing his appointment.
In general, all four panelists seemed generally unaware of any of Coulters arguments or the books that she has written.
Jaschik said many of the students at Berkeley think what conservatives think politically is hate speech. “How do we distinguish between hate speech and political opinion,” he said. “It results from an inability to see where the other side is coming from.”
Shapiro said a commencement address is not the time to bring someone who is controversial to speak, referring to Betsy Devos, the current Education Department secretary.
But Shapiro and liberals in general refer to conservative speakers, not liberal speakers, as controversial, since Linda Sarsour was invited to speak at a commencement event at City University New York and was allowed to speak.
Sarsour is a Palestinian-American political activist and former executive director of the Arab American Association of New York.
On Twitter, she has defended Assata Shakur, better known as Joanne Chesimard, a convicted killer who is on the F.B.I.’s list of most wanted terrorists. With a fist raised, she addressed the City University of New York Public School of Public Health at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.
Sarsour is also one of organizers of the Women’s March, along with Bob Bland, Carmen Perez and Tamika Mallory. They protested Trump’s inauguration in January. Surely those inviting her must have known of her views.
In fact, conservatives are generally more tolerant of opposing views, however radical they may be. It is liberals who become offended to the point of obstructing or blocking speech to the point of becoming violent. The irony is that liberals think of themselves as tolerant and conservatives as intolerant.
Students who walk out represent intolerance
Jandhyala said even the Notre Dame students who walked out at the Pence commencement address represented intolerance, when “you’re not willing to listen to things you disagree with.” He said the idea behind free speech should be about creating a multitude of perspectives “where you’re willing to listen to all different perspectives that are different from your own.”
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn declined to speak at Texas Southern University commencement when students objected because he is a conservative Trump supporter.
“Texas Southern University invited their senator, John Cornyn to do their commencement, and students threatened to walk out,” Jaschik said.
In the end, student violence is largely the result of liberal thinking and teaching that is similar to the ideas of Bill Ayers and the Weather Underground in the 60s. If you don't agree with someone, don't just disagree with them, stop them from speaking. Some of the ideas presented by academia on the panel, by default, encourage this kind of thinking.
The rational for exclusion and violence to stop the speech is because the idea of controversy or hate is repeated to the point that students think it's reasonable to stop the speakers. The fact that college administrators at both Berkeley and Middlebury were absent in penalizing obvious assaults on freedom of speech just confirms the collusion.
Modern liberal professors are like parents who don't present practical thought boundaries that students need to be productive in talking through issues. They don't have boundaries in their thinking; the result is destructive behavior. The professors are complicit, like an absent parent who allows their child to run wild on campus.
© 2017 Larry Ingram