Is The Heckler’s Veto Free Speech?

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

They think it is. At least one professor agrees.

“The right to protest is an essential component of the right to free speech,” Angus Johnston writes on Student “Protesting a speaker is an act of free speech, and the right to protest must be defended by civil libertarians even when the protest is indecorous or unruly.”

“It’s not an infringment on a speaker’s rights to challenge them, even if that challenge is uncivil. Sometimes incivility is exactly what a situation calls for. It’s crucial to be alert to infringements on the free-speech rights of protesters, even hecklers. When campus officials have protesters arrested, they are leveraging the power of the state against expression they disapprove of in ways that chill free speech far more powerfully than most hecklers.”

Johnston, who teaches at CUNY, shared these thoughts in a blog entitled “Some Thoughts for Civil Libertarians on Fighting the Far-Right on Campus. Yet and still, the “Far Right” figures he names are Milo Yiannopoulos and white supremacist Richard Spencer. The conservative credentials of the latter are rather questionable although, as yet, only Dinesh D’Souza has questioned them.