Law & the Courts

The Corner

No, There’s No Excuse for ‘Conservative’ Shout-Downs

In response to Social Security Alert

As Stanley Kurtz noted on Friday, pro-Trump protesters shouted-down California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and California State Assembly Leader Ian Calderon during an appearance at California’s Whittier College. This is a terrible development. 

Thus far the shout-down has been a predominantly far-Left tactic, one that’s spreading even to the point where progressives are turning on progressives (witness the recent Black Lives Matter shout-down of an ACLU speaker at William & Mary.) It’s shameful, it’s unlawful at public universities, and it violates the student code of conduct at private universities. The answer to the shout-down is the rule of law. The answer is the Constitution. 

Yet there are some “conservatives” who justify this new escalation (just like they justify public calls to fire radical professors who engage in offensive — but constitutionally-protected — speech) as a form of “fighting fire with fire.” It’s censorship in the name of freedom, and by making the Left “live under its own rules,” they’ll make the Left more reasonable.

This is as silly as it is unprincipled. 

The radical Left simply doesn’t view the world the way these conservatives believe they do. They don’t care if Xavier Becerra speaks or doesn’t speak. They’re not truly grieved in the least that he was shouted down. After all, the heckling, disrupting wing of the Left barely tolerates most Democratic politicians. Instead, they see the world through the prism not of persuasion but mobilization, and the emergence of right-wing lawlessness is God’s gift to their own efforts to “take the streets.” It’s God’s gift to their own efforts to tell more moderate members of the Left that the Right cares nothing for the Constitution and only seeks power. 

Here’s a radical idea. Let’s defend free speech by defending free speech. It’s the right thing to do, and it actually does work. This is not the first time we’ve seen a wave of campus shout-downs (the shout-down was a common radical left tactic when I was in law school). It ultimately receded then, and it will recede again — through public accountability and application of the rule of law. 

The right-wing mob will only make things worse, but then again I’m not sure the mob cares. To them, the “fight” matters far more than the Constitution. It’s brown shirts versus red shirts. They are who they hate, and if either side wins, America will most certainly lose. 

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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