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Thu, Oct. 5th, 2006, 06:38 pm
futurebird: it might be a BAD idea

Minutemen Protestors Rush Stage

Wow. What a debacle! So, the protesters probably should not have stormed the stage, and this whole thing looks pretty bad for all involved. Though, I wonder if anyone had the sense to think that it might be a BAD idea to bring the leader of a vigilante group that shoots at immigrants to the most international city in the world? They should feel lucky not to have been tarred, feathered, and ran out of town on a rail.

Here is what I still can't understand: why is it that the supporters of the minutemen are so self-satisfied that people who oppose them might also 'oppose free speech?' I mean, there is this assumption that ACLU members and pro-immigration people are one and the same and they just aren't. Well, they are more both more likely to be brown and speak funny languages. Maybe, that's the source of confusion. I'm a member of both camps and all I can say is they are not the smame.

Free speech really has nothing to do with the issue of shooting people for trying to cross the border. They are trying to change the subject! Let's talk about that.

That all said, I do think these kinds of protests are wrong-headed. You see, now we must endure the pain and suffering of listening to right wingers whine about how it's so unfair and anti-free-speech that they can't host a little talk on a college campus about shooting people who are on their way over here to make our country a better place. So, to all you potential stage-stormers out there please: don't do it. For our own sakes. The whining it too painful to bear.

In any case. I thought you'd all enjoy reading this. OK, you won't enjoy reading it, it will piss you off...well, if you're anything like me.

Here are some classic quotes to enrage you:

"Who's a racist now?" said Gilchrist, putting an arm around Stewart."I love the first amendment!" he shouted. "You're doing a great job, kids. I'm going to have more fun with this than with my prepared speech."(Marvin Stewart is a black ordained minister and member of the Minutemen board of directors. Jim Gilchrist is the founder of the Minuteman Project.)

Eventually Gilchrist and Chris Kulawik, CC '08, president of the College Republicans and a Spectator columnist, called Stewart off the stage. "I clearly had the false assumption that I was at an Ivy League school," Kulawik said as he introduced the main speaker.

If I rolled my eyes any further they come back up around the bottom.

Fri, Oct. 6th, 2006 02:42 pm (UTC)

It's entirely clear to me that you were not seriously proposing tarring and feathering Gilchrist. It's also clear that you think that the protest, as it happened, was unwise.

But it seems that you think that it was justified because Gilchrist's views are so terribly offensive. The big problem with this protest, as you describe it, is that now we have to hear right-wingers' whining about the First Amendment. I know you're being flip, but this is a dismissal of Gilchrist, Kulawick, and Stewart's claim that there was a violation of the spirit of the First Amendment in the incident. But wait: there was a violation of free speech there. The protesters prevented Gilchrist from expressing his views in public. This appeared to be their intent.

Now you've further affirmed that the “populist spirit” sometimes outweighs considerations like free speech. And you do this in reference to tarring and feathering. Certainly tarring and feathering is not so severe as lynching, but both were parts of the systematic of racist mob vigilantism visited against blacks in the US. It shouldn't be surprising that I find this unwholesome.
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Fri, Oct. 6th, 2006 05:23 pm (UTC)
jonathankorman: Um, let me say it again

The protesters prevented Gilchrist from expressing his views in public. This appeared to be their intent.
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Fri, Oct. 6th, 2006 05:46 pm (UTC)

The First Amendment is a legal concept, protecting free speech from legal censorship. But free speech is a broader cultural concept; legal protections are only part of the picture.

I expected that this distinction would be clear in an antiracist forum, where the silencing of PoCs in the cultural arena is part of the vocabulary of analysis.
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Fri, Oct. 6th, 2006 06:29 pm (UTC)

My reference to the silencing of PoCs is unrelated to the power relationships. Rather, I was explaining my expectation that folks in this forum would be familiar with the ways in which governmental censorship are not the only restrictions on free speech.

You say that violations of the Minutemen's free speech don't count as violations of free speech because the Minutemen are very bad people. I agree that they are very bad people. But either one believes in free speech for all or one doesn't. And you don't.

I understand that you are reacting to common social and political rhetoric in which only claims based on universal rights are valid. I agree with you: that rhetoric is a terrible trap. To only value universal rights, to talk in terms of “colorblindness” et cetera, perpetuates and even supports injustice.

But you are going a step beyond that. You are not saying that it is wrong to only rely on universal rights. You are saying that it is wrong to assert universal rights at all. You are saying that only believe in rights for people whose political position you approve of.

Think about what you are saying there. Please.
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Fri, Oct. 6th, 2006 06:52 pm (UTC)

If you'd like to believe that in order to better dismiss my argument, go right ahead.

You said, “I'll be damned if I ever consider the ‘rights’ of fascists.” It's difficult to imagine a more clear statement that you do not believe in rights for people whose political position you disapprove of.
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Fri, Oct. 6th, 2006 08:47 pm (UTC)

I meant “believe in” in the sense of favour or advocate. Rights have no essential existence; they are consequences of our social and political processes.

I recognize that in practice, free speech and other rights are not uniformly protected. As you say, this reflects the power disparities familiar to us in this forum. But that's not an indictment of the correctness of striving to protect universal rights! It's an indictment of power inequity because of the resulting inequities in rights protections.

Allow me a long-winded rephrasing for clarity. I favour social and political processes that protect certain universal rights, including free speech. You do not; you regard free speech and some other protected rights as not universal but contingent upon approved social or political position. You've made yourself very clear about this. I don't understand why you protest that this is a dismissal of your position.

I agree with the NEFAC article you linked that it is right and necessary to confront fascists like the Minutemen, to make it evident that their ideas are unwelcome in the community. The article implies that silencing tactics are therefore necessary. But it is certainly also possible to protest vigorously and visibly without denying one's opponents the opportunity to speak.

Thus, in my opinion, protesting the Minutemens' talk was right and appropriate. But drowning them out and diving them from the stage is the point at which free speech is violated, and I get off the bus.

Fri, Oct. 6th, 2006 11:07 pm (UTC)

Safty is a huge issue here. These people aren't just saying things they are doing things. They are scary and intimidating. What If they thought I was from Mexico and I was out for a walk in their home town? I'd probably be dead.

These people scare me just as much as Osama. I don't feel safe having them over for a little talk.

Fri, Oct. 6th, 2006 10:30 pm (UTC)

But it seems that you think that it was justified because Gilchrist's views are so terribly offensive.

I respect the emotions behind the protests, in fact I share those emotions. Their emotions are justified. I just don't think the actions accomplish much. In fact, in some ways they have backfired. I think protest (even civilly disobedient protest such as turning your back on some one or trying to put up banners that aren't supportive) is fair-- though we ought to talk about how effective these actions are. But, in this case, whoever threw the first punch (and it may have been a min. man) is in the wrong. Violence is always the last thing to try and only when it's dire. (Notice I don't rule it out!)

I know you're being flip, but this is a dismissal of Gilchrist, Kulawick, and Stewart's claim that there was a violation of the spirit of the First Amendment in the incident.

I don't think this is what is really relevant. The whole "free speech" issue is a distraction from the real issue: How is it that the leader of a vigilante group got invited to Columbia? Who thought this would be in any way enlightening? I was just a bad idea. It shows a stunning lack of sensitivity and awareness. And that's before we start talk about the jingoism.

Unlike many liberals I'm not overly concerned with freespeach. I think people have tons of freedom to speak, but most have absolutely nothing to say... and even fewer listen critically.

Fri, Oct. 6th, 2006 10:40 pm (UTC)

Aye. Obviously, I'm more concerned with free speech as a matter of principle than you are. But other than that, I entirely agree on all counts.