While left-wing college students and professors have a long history of squelching conservative speakers on college campuses, the impulse to impose the heckler’s veto rages across the political spectrum.
Earlier this month, conservative activists disrupted — and eventually shut down — a pair of speakers at an event at Whittier College in California. The event, which was free and open to the public, featured California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Assembly Leader Ian Calderon.
After they were introduced, Mr. Becerra and Mr. Calderon were scheduled to participate in an hour-long question-and-answer session featuring audience questions. As the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education reports, however, as soon as the session began, hecklers wearing “Make America Great Again” hats unleashed a chorus of boos, slogans and insults.
The hecklers, led by conservative blogger and pro-Trump activist Arthur Schaper, were protesting Mr. Becerra’s lawsuit against the Trump administration over its rescinding of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Roughly 200,000 DACA recipients live in California, and the hecklers constantly interrupted Mr. Becerra and Mr. Calderon with shouts of “Build that wall,“ “Americans first,” “Respect our president,” “Corruption,” “Pothead” and other witty repartee.
According to FIRE, Mr. Calderon implored the audience to hold applause and booing so that they could “have a productive conversation.” Audience members also asked the hecklers to stop, and campus security approached them, too, but their efforts were unsuccessful. The event ended nearly 30 minutes early.
The Los Angeles Times describes Schaper as “part of the resistance to the resistance.” The paper says he is so abrasive that the local Republican Party has disavowed him. He takes pride, the Times says, in disrupting “city council meetings in so-called sanctuary cities and shouting down Democratic politicians.”
“I am prepared to be an uncivil civilian, and I don’t care who’s offended,” Mr. Schaper wrote recently. “Civility, accommodation, and playing nice with Republican and Democratic elected officials is over. … Making America great again is not about placating and pleasing everyone, but standing up for what is right, even if it means disrupting a few tea parties.”
Sounds a lot like the leftist antifa extremists.
This type of boorish nonsense is destructive in a number of ways. As Robby Soave of Reason.com argues, if every appearance by an elected official “spirals into sustained heckling intended to prevent the speech, the utility of appearing at all is diminished, and officials will be even less inclined to face their constituents.”
Those afraid to let others air opposing views betray a stunning lack of confidence in their own ideas. The authoritarians who seek to stifle debate and reasoned discourse should be roundly condemned, regardless of their political viewpoints.