Civil Libertarians and Academics Who Support Censors


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Should students who conspire to “shut down” an invited speaker with whom they disagree be prosecuted for the misdemeanor of conspiracy to disturb a meeting?  That is the question roiling the University of California.  The facts are not really in dispute.  Israel’s Ambassador to the United States—a moderate academic named Michael Oren—was invited to present a talk at the University of California at Irvine, a hotbed of radical Islamic hate speech against Israel.  The Muslim Student Union organized an effort, in the words of one of its leaders, to “shut down” Oren’s speech—that is to prevent Oren from expressing his views and to stop the audience who came to hear him from listening to them.  Here is the way the Dean of the law school, who opposes any criminal prosecution, described what happened:.

“The Muslim Student Union orchestrated a concerted effort to disrupt the speech.  One student after another stood and shouted so that the ambassador could not be heard.  Each student was taken away only to be replaced by another doing the same thing.”

The dean’s description is something of an understatement —as anyone can see by watching a video of the event, available online.  This was more than a “concerted effort to disrupt the speech.  It was a concerted effort to stop it completely—to “shut [it] down.”

Ultimately, that effort failed and Oren managed to deliver his speech, after many long and sustained disruptions, but if the Muslim Student Union had gotten its way, Oren would have been shut down completely.  The University, which is a state institution, had a constitutional obligation to protect the First Amendment rights of Oren’s audience to hear what he had to say, and the state prosecutor has a legal obligation to deter future conspiracies to censor controversial speakers, by criminally prosecuting those students who conspired to deny other students their First Amendment rights.

While dissenting students have the right to express disapproval of a speaker’s views by episodic booing, heckling or holding signs, they have no right to conspire to shut down a speaker, which is what the Muslim Student Union students did in this case.  One would think that this distinction should be clear to all civil libertarians, academics and others who claim to care about freedom of speech on campus.

It is shocking therefore to see who has lined up behind the students who set out to censor Ambassador Oren.  Two prominent leaders of the American Civil Liberties have joined with radical Muslims and other extremists in an effort to pressure the local District Attorney to drop misdemeanor charges against 11 student censors.

A letter supporting the censoring students was signed by Chuck Anderson, President of the Orange County ACLU, and Hector Villagra, the incoming Executive Director of the ACLU of Southern California, along with several other radical anti-Israel extremists such as the local heads of the Council on American-Islamic relations, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the National Lawyers Guild, the Islamic Shura Council, and the West Coast Islamic Society (If you don’t believe this, as I originally didn’t, read the entire letter for yourself.

The ACLU leaders have denied they support censorship and claim that the letter they signed is merely a request to the local District Attorney to drop criminal charges against the students who tried to shut Oren down.  But the letter goes much further and defends—indeed praises—the censorial actions those students, while condemning the actions of other students who wanted to hear the speaker.

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  • davarino

    The protestors cant handle the truth. If truth were on their side why dont they hang around for the question and answer period. That way they could really hammer the speaker with the truth.

  • Charles

    This situation not only exemplifies the anti-Israel posture of many Muslims, "civil liberties" organizations and large swathes of academia, but, as Mr. Dershowitz fails to add, is reflective of a radical left influence among these groups.

  • StephenD

    You can picture the Wicked Witch of the West. As the truthful words of the speaker are heard…It Burns! IT Burns!!

  • tanstaafl

    This shouldn't surprise us. There is no debate in Islam o Land. Just force.

  • RobertPinkerton

    This is not the first time (in my memory, at least) that the ACLU has finked out on civil liberty basics: I remember that, in late 1968, the ACLU (Though whether this was national or merely the Ohio state affiliate I do not recall.) came out in favor of restriction on firearm ownership. This I saw as a betrayal of its professed mission of defending civil liberty; although antipathy to the commoner's Right of arms is consonant with the ACLU's socialist origins,

  • sedoanman

    "The national ACLU must investigate this matter and take action to assure that its longstanding principle of neutral support for freedom of expression has not been compromised …"

    What "longstanding principle of neutral support for freedom of expression"? The ACLU is very selective in the free-speech cases it takes, or doesn't take, so that its agenda of tearing at the fabric of society is furthered. This is not neutrality.

  • Alfonz Shmedlap

    M., 05/16/11 common era

    Censorship is free speech. Evil is good, and good is evil. Didn't Isaiah prophesize something like that? Hmmm, could it be that Mohammed will soon be permanently out of the religion business? Hold that thought!

  • steven l

    The US govt has already publicly, officially and blatantly censored free speech and given special status to Islam and the Qur' an while not supporting the same position vis a vis the other 2 monotheistic religions.
    BHO and his gvt have gone over this red line time after time.

  • Andres de Alamaya

    There needs to be an investigation into donations by CAIR or their like to the local chapter of ACLU and the culprits should be sued for perjury and interference with a police investigation. Also we need new legislation that blocks donations by foreign government or entities from making donations to U.S. colleges in their efforts to whitewash their own histories and brainwash naive Americans to their way of thinking. Middle East Studies departments funded by Saudi petro dollares are nothing more than propaganda departments using American colleges for their evil purpose.

  • kafir4life

    It is imperative that terrorist supporters (especially the terrorist supporters at the terrorist supporting hamas-linked terror supporting organization and their terror supporters over at cair) shout down any opposing viewpoint. They don't have the capacity to listen to others and get involved in a debate, as it's tough to justify murder, rape, terror, and genocide, so they have to scream and whine.
    It's just islam folks. Debate is hareem. Killing kufar is haleel.

    • Tanstasfl

      Exactly. The truth is not important. Only Islam is important.

  • Randall Reed

    I hope that Alan D. became just as upset over the left's suppression of conservative speakers on campus as he is over Muslim's suppression of Jewish views. If he was, then that is to his credit. I like to think he favors the allowance of opposing sides to make their cases without suppression (how much heckling/disruption becomes suppression?), but he is, after all, a liberal, and modern liberals typically have no basis for believing in objective value. Why would a liberal believe in a fair fight? Would his answer be for practical reasons, or because it is just right?

  • answer4everything

    If I was a leader of a biker gang I would view this as an opportunity. I would offer my biker gang as security for any conservative speaker that has to speak at any university. How many leftists are going to mouth off with a 1%er standing next to them? Every one knows that leftists only speak truth to power when there is no chance they may actually get hurt. Thats why they throw paint on rich women outside of fur stores but never show up outside of a biker bar to protest the wearing of leather.