Drumming Their Heels on the Carpet

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Just a quick follow up note to the excitement at Indiana University Friday night. YouTube has a short clip of the the attempted “mic check” that was run on me, and if you listen carefully to their chanting, they say (in the midst of their tightly reasoned argument) something like “We believe in free speech, but this is hate speech!”

One sympathizes with their dilemma of course. It is a long established legal principle that free speech is not an absolute (e.g. the famous example of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater). But the issue is this — by what standard will we exclude certain forms of speech? However you wrestle with this question, it probably ought not to wind up with you defining free speech as that which you could well have said yourself.

They have painted themselves into a tight little corner. Anyone who disagrees with them is guilty of hate, and they are in favor of free speech as long as it isn’t hate speech, and you can quickly discover, by good and necessary consequence, that they are absolutely in favor of free speech, so long as it agrees with them.

Complaints of how they are not playing fair, however, are pretty much beside the point. It is not as though they are saying they have the right to say whatever they want, while we don’t. They do say that, but that is not where the action is. They are not really speaking — there is no discussion, no debate, no real argument, or any of that, really. What they are doing is pitching a fit, or throwing a tantrum. They are doing this for the same reason that anybody throws a tantrum — it frequently gets them what they want. This is an attempted throwdown; this is coercion; this is force. The pomo theorists tell that everything is a disguised power play, and I think this is at least true in their case. They like to accuse people of doing what they are up to. Ahab is the troubler of Israel, and so that is what he accuses Elijah of doing.

They want certain things, and if they don’t get it, they will lie horizontally and drum their heels on the carpet. They keep this up, because in many places, it works. In many pleace they get what they want. Just not in Bloomington last Friday.

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