On Tuesday, a rowdy crowd inflicted a 45-minute heckler’s veto on constitutional scholar Ilya Shapiro for a poorly worded tweet.
Attempting to speak at a Federalist Society event at the UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, Shapiro was confronted with the sharpest arguments these law students and protestors could muster:
“You’re a bald coward!”
“Freedom of speech, baby.”
“Remove him off the [effing] campus!”
And those were the eloquent ones.
In the past, heckled-cancelled speakers often surveyed the room and retreated. There was often an air of apology in their retreats, as if they agreed they should be cancelled. Shapiro defiantly remained standing at the podium for the duration of what would have been his talk.
To its credit, Hasting’s dean of academics tried to quell the crowd by telling them a law professor was going to confront Shapiro with questions about his tweet. But that would be dialogue, which would lack the self-righteous satisfaction of vitriolic and unrelenting denunciation. One wonders what the dean would do if students behaved this way in class? Give them all A’s? Actually let the teachers teach?
There is a sense that the wheel is turning and that campus speakers are not going to meekly accept such bullying and abuse. Let us hope that Georgetown University finds its courage and retains Shapiro as head of its Constitution Center.
After all, what could be a more teachable moment about the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment?