Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Just Shut Up

Rick Green, a Hartford Courant columnist and blogger, reports on his blog CTConfidential that “Rowdy students prevented New Canaan's Ann Coulter from speaking in Ottawa” Canada, and he added “That will stop her” in apparent approval.

Closer to home, UConn students successfully blocked Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton  from speaking on campus.

Coulter said later that the Canadian university that scheduled her to speak was a second rate institution, and Boughton, who is running for governor on the Republican ticket this year, politely protested his exclusion from a law school panel before which he had been invited to speak. Boughten did not characterize UConn as a second rate college.


Canada, more or less patterned after European models, has no First Amendment rights. Mark Steyn, a Canadian writer much published here in the land of Jefferson and Madison, has had a tougher time of it in Canada, where a quasi governmental agency – the amusingly miss-named Canadian Human Rights Commission -- a couple of years ago subjected Steyn to a lengthy and costly investigation following a complaint received by the commission from the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC). The CIC objected to a magazine in Canada that printed excerpts from Steyn’s book “America Alone.”

In Connecticut, whenever assaults are made on First Amendments rights, the air is usually thick with recriminations: commentary articles in newspapers, marches and assemblies, editorial protests and other healthy effusions. But let a Connecticut native be hooted down in Canada or a candidate for governor in the state be pressured out of a speaking engagement by law school students at a tax supported university and you get – a silence so think you can mould it into a brick and throw it at the head of any target disserving of liberal displeasure.

Neither the Canadian brown shirts nor the UConn group was associated with Tea Party Patriots.

11 comments:

Fuzzy Dunlop said...

While I feel for Ms. Coulter, I am much more concerned about the terrorists who are threatening United States congressmen and women over healthcare reform. I would submit that bloody minded comminations toward democratically elected lawmakers are a far greater threat to the Republic.

Don Pesci said...

Of course. But nothing prevents us from condemning both. Really, a LAW SCHOOL group forcing others to rescind an invitation to a gubernatorial candidate – there are limits to patience.

People who threaten other with bodily harm should be prosecuted. There are no enforceable sanctions for law students who violate the constitutional rights of speakers in this way other then public obloquy. So, where is it?

When a school sought to punish Avery Doninger for exercising her First Amendment right, there was a great hue and outcry. I was part of it: http://donpesci.blogspot.com/2009/01/courts-have-often-recognized-that-first.html

So, show me the outrage.

Fuzzy Dunlop said...

Before you get too outraged regarding the UConn Law situation, Don, you might want to get your facts straight.

First, it is unfair for you to blanketly refer to "UConn students" in your post. It was actually a relatively small student group for latino students who, exercising their on first amendment rights, said they did not feel Mr. Boughton should be given a forum to speak. It is unfair for you to suggest that this group's views are in any way representative of UConn law students as a whole.

Second, Mr. Boughton was invited to speak at a symposium that was being hosted by the Connecticut Public Interest Law Journal. This is a scholarly journal that publishes articles on a number of topics and they are holding a symposium on undocumented workers and illegal immigrants. It is to their credit that they sought a variety of viewpoints and therefore asked Mr. Boughton, a conservative, to speak.

Thid, and most importantly as you insinuate otherwise in your above comment, the invitation WAS NOT rescinded. Here's what the editor in chief, Pat Linsey, had to say to Rick Green:

"We stand by our decision to invite him. We think he would have had a contribution to make. We are disappointed that he pulled out. The vast majority of law students, wherever they stand on the issue, would be open to what he has to say."

Kudos to Mr. Linsey for having the integrity to withstand the close minded efforts of the latino students. Rather than the all out assault on free speech that you see this as, I think it is an example of free speech working rather well. The latino students expressed a viewpoint. CPILJ rejected that viewpoint. Mr. Boughton has exercised his right to free speech by choosing, well, to not make any speech at all.

I think that Mr. Boughton is being a bit of a baby here. I have been to many law school symposiums. They are generally extremely respectful, and there is always a Q & A with panelists. It is a shame that rather than attend, as planned, and address whatever criticisms members of the law school community may have had head on, Mr. Boughton took the cowardly route and cut and ran.

Personally, I think the more interesting story here is what this says about Mr. Boughton's character. Yes, what the latino students said was unfair and closeminded. But as governor, you do not always deal with friendly factions. Do we really want an eggshell politician like Mr. Boughton in the governor's office? I doubt the state can afford the extra kleenex.

Don Pesci said...
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Don Pesci said...
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Don Pesci said...

No. UConn should be held responsible for this. The Canadian college is responsible for the Coulter shoutdown. I appreciate your additional details, and I made a error about rescinding the invitation in the comment section. That was poorly put.

Boughten simply got the message the protesting students were sending him and probably decided not to embarrass either himself or them.

The culture at these colleges will remain hostile and brutally uncivil unless the administration applies sanctions.

Fuzzy Dunlop said...

There is scant evidence that Mr. Boughten would have been confronted by an entire student body foaming at the mouth. He should have had the cojones to show up.

And wow Don. You said: "UConn should be held responsible for this."

What sanctions would you suggest be imposed? The Latino Law Association exercised their first amendment rights by expressing an opinion (albeit a close-minded and wrongheaded opinion). But let's not forget who the government actor is here: The law school. Had the school leveled sanctions against the Latino student organization, the school would almost undoubtedly have been violating THEIR first amendment rights.


“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” - Evelyn Beatrice Hall, The Friends of Voltaire

Fuzzy Dunlop said...

And I will say this: The Latino Law Association owes an apology to the members of the Connecticut Public Interest Law Journal. I was involved with symposia for my journal when I was in law school, and they are extremely difficult to put together. It is very difficult to find speakers, especially when you aren't soliciting them on behalf of a Law Review but rather a secondary journal. So I will exercise my freedom of speech by saying that I am disgusted that these students openly sought to suppress anyone's point of view. I am greatly dismayed that they have succeeded in detracting from a forum that other students undoubtedly worked extremely hard to put together.

Don Pesci said...

I think we agree more than we disagree here. My sanction would fall short of hanging and entail more than a reprimand, though that is a sanction as well. See, here’s the problem: This group is composed of LAW students, who possibly have some passing understanding of the theoretical and practical import of the First Amendment. Rick Green is a member of the Fourth Estate; he dines on the First Amendment every time he taps a message out on his keyboard. I’m beginning to notice that some people are very quick to defend offenses made by liberals when they fall within the preview of the First Amendment; but, oddly, they tend to fall asleep when the assault is made on men and women on the right – forgetting, as you have NOT done, the quote sometimes attributed to Voltaire. And it’s beginning to annoy me. It was this annoyance that prompted the blog. I’m glad that responsible people associated with the legal community at UConn are similarly annoyed, cheered that they have spoken out. But in Canada, the people who were deprived of a right were those who had arranged for Coulter to speak to them. At UConn, an invitation to join in a panel was extended to Boughton; he accepted the invitation; there was the usual barbaric to-do; he declined under these circumstances to join the panel. Those who were deprived in these circumstances were the students who did not hear what he had planned to say. It’s a bit of a stretch to blame Boughton for any of this. I’m not in the habit of crawling into peoples’ souls for the purpose of examining their core motivations. My guess is that Boughton declined the invitation following the protests of his appearance because he was made to feel uncomfortable. But the thing happened as the law students who wished to drive him away wanted it to happen. Under these circumstances, it is a little difficult for me to understand why any blame for his non-appearance should attach to him. But we can cheerfully disagree on this. You say that the law students who are chiefly responsible for this sad affair owe the organizers of the symposium an apology. But why – if all they did amiss was to exercise their constitutional rights? No, what they did was an offense against the First Amendment, an offense against Mayor Boughton, an offense against good manners and an offense against their fellow law students. The great – and now immortal – Bill Buckley used to say that the trouble with bad manners is that they sometimes lead to murder. The point of relevant sanctions is to forestall both. I’m willing to leave it to those better versed than I in ethics to decide which sanctions would be just and effective.

Don Pesci said...
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Don Pesci said...

It's not the cavalry charge I expected, but it is a sign that all is not lost – better anyway than the usual snooze.

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