Over at our sister blog, Bench Memos, Ed Whelan is doing a tremendous job tracking the twists and turns of the Prop 8 trial, specifically the trial judge’s remarkable attempt to YouTube the entire proceedings. I was particularly interested in the following description of the arguments for public broadcast:
Dismissing the vast multiplier effect that the televising order will have, Walker and plaintiffs’ counsel, Theodore Boutrous, indicated their belief that the sponsors of Proposition 8 deserve whatever additional harassment and abuse come their way. As Boutrous put it, the sponsors “thrust themselves into this issue.” He called it “ironic” that people who have been “stripping away” the right to same-sex marriage could complain about being subjected to harassment and intimidation. (His December 29 letter similarly states that “Proponents willingly thrust themselves into the public eye.”) Walker likewise stated that the Proposition 8 sponsors had, by virtue of their political campaign, “assumed a public face” that evidently subjects them to whatever ensues.
“Thrust themselves into the public eye?” “Assumed a public face?” This is dangerous reasoning. Let’s think for a moment about what actually happened here. The California Supreme Court thrust same-sex marriage onto the people of California in a sterling example of undemocratic judicial activism. At this point, California citizens had a choice to make: take the medicine they’d been given, or “assume a public face” and actually put the matter to a vote. Does that make them “fair game” for threats and intimidation?
The parallel between the Prop 8 trial and the course of all too many arguments on campus is obvious. On campus, administrators thrust speech codes, thought reform, and all manner of constitutional violations on their students. And they do so without any real public accountability and certainly no threat of shame or exposure from the media. When conservative students oppose the illegal actions, the students are are suddenly the rabble-rousers and trouble-makers, subject to threats and intimidation.
The message from the cultural elite is clear: We’ll make the change. You consent to that change, or else.