Being Shouted Down · 30 March 2009

By Don Feder -

On March 11, I joined a growing fraternity – conservatives who’ve been prevented from speaking on college campuses.

Student storm troopers have become the final arbiters of who may speak and what views may be expressed in academia – once dedicated to free inquiry and open discussion, now as intellectually open as a Stalinist gulag. The academic archipelago?

I was invited by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst Republicans and Young America’s Foundation to speak on hate crimes laws as a threat to free speech and religious freedom.

That there is a national epidemic of hate crimes incited by hate speech – which drastic action is needed to curtail – is sacred dogma for the sensitivity goons.

To question these assumptions is sacrilege. When challenged here, leftists react like Muslims in a murderous rage over Mohammed cartoons

That does a lot to explain what transpired when I tried to speak at the collegiate zoo in Western Massachusetts – that and the fact that the administration refuses to keep the animals leashed.

Half of the audience of 300 came not to listen, question or debate, but to disrupt.

The mob scene was coordinated by the International Socialist Organization (a group found only on college campuses and in the Obama administration), the Pride Alliance, the Coalition Against Hate and the Campus Anti-War Network. Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade and the Committee for Justice for Sacco and Vanzetti were conspicuous by their absence.

Not more than 20 seconds into my address, the catcalls and heckling began. A group of young scholars turned their backs on me – a potent argument to their way of thinking. I felt like I’d stepped into Mr. Peabody’s Wayback machine and been transported to my student days at Boston University, circa 1969.

The honorary citizens of Crete unfurled banners, waved signs, chanted slogans, shouted insults and taunts, jeered, laughed derisively and generally demonstrated the self-control of toddlers with Tourette syndrome.

Their signs read, “Hate Speech Leads to Hate Crimes” (this from people who insist there’s no connection between pornography and sex crimes), “Free Speech Does Not Equal Hate Speech” (who decides what speech should be censored in the name of countering hatred? They do, of course) and – my favorite – “Abolish Hate.” Bravo! After that, we can abolish lust, greed, sloth and unhygienic habits (though the protestors might consider that a personal attack). My terrier has taken to toting around a sign that says “Abolish Cats!”

Some of the protestors had flyers pinned to their tiny chests to represent the victims of hate crimes. “My name is Hollywood Montrose, and I’m a bisexual, bi-racial, bi-lingual transgendered person of color who was stabbed 27 times because the Family Research Council says gays can change.”

Among other antics, a barefoot girl tried to bring a rat into the lecture. Rumor had it that Rat Girl planned to let the rodent loose to raise the level of discourse. Then again, perhaps it was her boyfriend. Besides supporting cross-dressers, activists are in to cross-species dating.

Before I gave up, I was interrupted roughly once every 15 seconds. Finally, I decided that attempting to speak over the tumult served no useful purpose and the speech was cancelled. I stayed at the podium for another 20 minutes talking to those who came with questions instead of slogans.

After the room had cleared, 50 or so of us – some supportive, others curious – repaired to the offices of the Republican club, where I spoke impromptu and answered questions for about an hour.

Perhaps conservative speakers should go to campus lectures armed, thereby exercising their Second Amendment rights to forestall violation of their First Amendment rights.

March 11 was my bar mitzvah under fire. Here are some of the other conservative speakers who’ve experienced the open-minded student body of today.

  • In 2005, at the University of Connecticut, Ann Coulter called it quits 15 minutes into a lecture to 2,600, when boos and jeers made it impossible for her to continue. She switched to a question-and-answer session. “I love to engage in repartee with people who are stupider than I am,” Ann joked. She’ll be in 7th heaven if she ever speaks at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
  • In 2007, when commentator Daniel Pipes tried to speak on “The Threat to Israel’s Existence,” at the University of California-Irvine, he was disrupted minutes into the lecture by people of the jihad persuasion and their Marxist allies. Pipes could barely be heard over chants of “anti-Israel,” “anti-oppression,” “anti-racism” and “anti-hate.” On the college campus, to support the Jewish state is the supreme act of hate speech. Oppression is unknown elsewhere in the Middle East, but especially in Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia (if you’re an independent-minded woman) or Egypt (if you’re a Coptic Christian). 
  • When Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol tried to speak at the University of Texas in 2006, he was almost eaten alive. Kristol’s topic – political events in the aftermath of 9/11 – provoked Oliver Stone paranoia. “We’re here to expose the truth about 9/11,” film student Aaron Dykes proclaimed. Presumably, that would be the truth about the Zionist-CIA-Karl Rove-AIG Executives cabal (cleverly disguised as Saudi citizens) responsible for the deaths of 3,000 Americans in 2001. 
  • When she attempted to speak at Penn State in 1999, black conservative Star Parker was forced from the stage. Parker described the experience as “very frightening” and said she “feared for my life.” Parker’s hatefullness was her contention that single mothers are better off with jobs than on welfare, based on her own experience. 
  • At Emory University in 2006, David Horowitz gave a lecture as part of Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week. To show their outrage at the comparison of radical Islam to fascism, protestors behaved like fascists. A mob of over 300, from groups like Amnesty International, Veterans for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine, waved signs and shouted, “Does George Bush respect anybody’s rights?” and “Why don’t you talk about fascism in America?” mixed with chants of “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, David Horowitz go away!” (They can’t reason. But they sure can rhyme.) “Are we going to talk about who killed JFK?” one protestor demanded. (The Zionist-CIA-Karl Rove-AIG Executives cabal?). Horowitz (who had to be escorted off stage) observed, “This is exactly what the fascists did in Germany in the 1930s.” True, but at least they weren’t hypocrites claiming they were motivated by concern for minority rights. 
  • In October 2006, leftists (this time flying the colors of the Chicano Caucus and the International Socialist Organization) rushed the stage and knocked over tables and chairs to prevent Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minuteman Project, and his colleagues from speaking. “Minutemen, Nazis, KKK – racist fascists go away,” they cleverly chanted. (“Duck, frog, pig, pup – you spread hatred, so shut up!”) To prove their commitment to fighting racism, protestors shouted the “N-word" at black Minuteman Marvin Stewart. But it was in a good cause, combating hate speech. Even New York’s liberal Republican Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, was appalled: “Bollinger’s (Columbia’s president) just got to get his hands around this…. There are too many incidents at the same school where people get censored,” the mayor complained. But not Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s Holocaust-denier-in-chief, invited by Bollinger to speak at Columbia in 2007.

With honorable exceptions, administrators do nothing to discipline the bundists, either for fear of making themselves targets or because they’re in league with them.

 My encounter on the 11th was videotaped. It would be relatively easy for the university to identify those who kept me from speaking and punish them. One group, the Socialist Workers (an oxymoron if there ever was one), even bragged about their performance on their website and pledged to keep disrupting Republican events.

On the other hand, administrators have no trouble coming down like a ton of bricks on conservative students for almost any reason.

On February 19, two students from California’s Claremont McKenna College attended a public lecture by a Planned Parenthood representative at neighboring Pomona College. The conservative students asked challenging questions and videotaped the response. (They turned off the camera when requested to do so by the speaker.)

Two Pomona deans went postal, claiming the students “interrupted the event” with “disruptive questions,” which constituted “harassment or hostile behavior.” The Claremont students were summarily banned from the Pomona campus. The ban was later lifted after a public outcry.

The Claremont students didn’t chant. They didn’t heckle or shout slogans. They didn’t wave signs or laugh derisively. But, two (count ‘em, two) conservatives were the equivalent of a lynch mob, in the eyes of pro-censorship administrators.

The left’s double-standard on speech goes back to Herbert Marcuse. A new left icon, Marcuse taught ‘60s radicals that it was their moral duty to censor the right.

In his essay, “Repressive Tolerance” (published in 1965), the Marxist scholar explained that because conservatives are “oppressive,” revolutionaries should be “intolerant towards the protagonists of the repressive status quo.”

Marcuse’s dictum was a great excuse for cowards and intellectual weaklings unable to deal with opposing views.

The kiddies also learned from their elders that any opinion can be censored in the name of spreading sweetness and light.

Campus speech codes – promulgated by sensitivity-besotted administrators (with the avid support of leftist faculty and whining student interest groups) – have exactly the same effect as demonstrators shouting down opposing views.

Not just epithets, but words which make certain groups feel uncomfortable (because they challenge their worldview) are officially banned at many colleges and universities.

In their 1993 book, “The Shadow University,” Harvey Silverglate and Alan Kors showed the lengths to which this is often taken.

Students are punished for “intentionally producing psychological discomfort” (at the University of North Dakota), “inconsiderate jokes” (University of Connecticut), “inappropriate laughter” (Sarah Lawrence College), “eye contact or lack of it” (Michigan State University), “communication with sexual overtones” (Lincoln University) and comments which “annoy” or “offend.” The foregoing is quoted by John Leo in his essay “Free Inquiry? Not on Campus,” City Journal (Winter 2007).

At Ohio State University’s Mansfield campus in 2006, the entire faculty voted to file charges of sexual discrimination and harassment against librarian Scott Savage for recommending three conservative books to incoming freshmen. Let no hate speech go unpunished. In Germany, those who began by burning books ended by burning people.

Leftist students have learned from leftist administrators that they have an absolute right to be intolerant in the name of tolerance.

Thus, because speech criticizing affirmative action, feminism, abortion, same-sex marriage, hate-crimes laws, illegal immigration, global terrorism and attacks on Israel are “hurtful and hateful,” they should not be tolerated at institutions supposedly dedicated to the free exchange of ideas.

Not surprisingly, only conservatives cause psychic pain.

Burning the American flag (which offends veterans and patriots), parodies of Catholicism (to which Catholics object), accusing U.S. forces in Iraq of atrocities (which might hurt the families of our war dead) and comparing Israel’s self-defense to the Holocaust, are examples of free expression which must be defended, while criticizing hate-crimes laws is hate speech at its most vicious and must be crushed.

Revolutionary consciousness and repressive tolerance aside, there are other factors driving student brown shirts.

The modern college campus is an ideological echo chamber. Day in and day out, leftist ideas are inculcated by professors, assigned reading, campus lectures (the one which aren’t censored), and commencement speakers.

Horowitz notes the stark political imbalance of most faculties, writing in 2006: “Tulane Law School – one of the institutions I visited this spring – has not a single Republican or conservative faculty member; the Duquesne Law School – where I also spoke – has one. The students I met at the University of Michigan could not identify a single conservative on their faculty, although they could name several Marxists…. Out of 15 professors in the Department of Political Science at the University of Richmond, a private school with a decidedly conservative student body, there is one Republican.”

Like mental patients who become agitated when their delusions are challenged, the student left goes bonkers when encountering a worldview that contradicts their own. This provokes temper tantrums and other infantile behavior.

In a way, I’m glad I experienced just how vile these creatures can be. It’s one thing to read about students in armbands and jackboots and quite another to be subjected to the catcalls, heckling and other intimidation tactics.

After I announced that I would not continue speaking, demonstrators applauded and cavorted. The odious hatemonger had been driven from the podium – hooray, hooray! They had won.

Or had they?

Suppose a man visiting a zoo stops at the monkey cage whose denizens begin throwing feces at him. If the man decides to take himself out of range, have the monkeys won?

This essay originally appeared at and is reprinted with the author's permission.


Don Feder is a former Boston Herald writer who is now a political/communications consultant. He also maintains his own website,