How Should Conservatives Respond to the Disturbing Trend of Campus Censorship?

We experienced an aggressive protest at UC Davis, but this is part of a disturbing, growing trend of censorship of conservative speech on college campuses.

This is an extended version of an article from our last printed newsletter. Warning: This blog post includes strong language when directly quoting leftist protesters.

On February 29th through March 1st at UC Davis, we faced our most aggressive, persistent, and unreasonable protest yet.

As many of you know, our preferred way of doing outreach is to set up a simple poll table that asks questions like, “Should Abortion Remain Legal?” and provide options for people to sign Yes, No, or It Depends. While we do keep track of the results of these polls to pay attention to trends, they aren’t scientific and we don’t ask the question in order to track people’s answers. We just want to dialogue with people and give our volunteers an opportunity to use what they learned at our training seminar.

We don’t put up signs with abortion images. If you want to learn about how we use abortion images, go to EqualRightsInstitute.com/Images. In short, we think the images are valuable and sometimes persuasive, so we have them in our brochure and we train our volunteers to use them in their conversations. Our rule is that we don’t show people abortion images without their consent, which is purely for pragmatic reasons. We don’t think it’s evil to put abortion images on signs, but we have found it to be counter-productive if our goal is to have persuasive dialogues with people.

The pro-choice club found out that we were coming to do an event of some kind on Monday and Tuesday and they assumed we were going to do a graphic image outreach. They came prepared to protest us with umbrellas and signs that said “graphic images ahead” and “let us be your umbrella escort.” They were literally offering to escort people past the most unintimidating pro-life display they’d ever seen. To the casual observer, we could have been a pro-choice table, or a table run by people that were undecided but interested in people’s opinions.

The protesters eventually realized that we were having friendly and productive dialogues, so they got tired of protesting us by standing 75-feet away and holding their signs. In the afternoon, they figured out an effective way to actually interfere with our event: they formed a protest line in front of our table. This turned our table from a comfortable, inviting place for conversation into a place where people expected to be yelled at, and it effectively shut down our table. We asked the university administration to respect our free speech event and tell the protesters to give us some space. They refused to do anything.

Pro-choice protesters at UC Davis in a line in front of our poll table.

Pro-choice protesters at UC Davis in a line in front of our poll table.

We didn’t want our table to be shut down again by a line of angry protesters, so that night we decided to try something different, if it became necessary. We asked our friends from Project Truth, who were volunteering with us for our event, to bring their graphic abortion image display, but to not set it up. We hoped the protesters wouldn’t block our table again, but sure enough by late morning there was a line of fifteen to twenty, screaming at us if we tried to talk to them, dancing to music, hula-hooping, and waving their signs and umbrellas. The university administration just watched.

Pro-choice protesters at UC Davis in a line in front of our poll table.

Pro-choice protesters at UC Davis in a line in front of our poll table.

Finally one of the protesters walked up to our table, and with a look of contempt (right in front of me), knocked everything off our table that she could reach. The protesters cheered as the vandal walked away triumphantly. Campus security and the university administration was reluctant to do anything. Eventually, when pressed, they got the student’s information and talked to her.

Pro-choice protesters at UC Davis.

Pro-choice protesters at UC Davis.

The protest became ridiculous enough and aggressive enough that dialogue became almost impossible. One of the Project Truth guys presented the protesters with our offer: “We just want to have friendly dialogue but you guys aren’t letting us do that. You can do your protest away from our table so we can have conversations with people. If you aren’t willing to give us any space, then you aren’t giving us any choice but to get our message out another way, and we’ll set up the graphic display. That isn’t the kind of day we want to have today, we just want to have conversations. It’s up to you.” They refused, so we ended the ERI event and allowed Project Truth to take over.

A UC Davis student shouts at Josh Brahm.

A UC Davis student shouts at Josh Brahm.

The university administration was thoroughly uninterested in the fact that the protesters interfered with our free speech event to the point of shutting it down. On at least four occasions (a student who Project Truth has known to be physically aggressive) came over to shout at us. It appeared that he was looking for a fight, at one point even saying, “If I were mentally unstable right now, I would knock you out.” The administration only acted on the last occasion when he got within inches of one of our volunteers. Even though this happened after the vandalism at our poll table, the campus security officer had inexplicably left the area, and the watching administrators never called them to come back to monitor the increasingly tense situation.

The same student gets within inches of our volunteer moments before a UC Davis administrator (not pictured) encouraged him to back off.

The same student gets within inches of our volunteer moments before a UC Davis administrator (not pictured) encouraged him to back off.

The political climate of leftist universities is only getting more difficult. Many pro-choice students and faculty of universities like UC Davis are not interested in rational discussion. They’re interested in censoring the other side by any means they can possibly get away with, and the administration allows them to get away with a great deal.

Here are four other recent examples of this:

#1: Ben Shapiro Event at CSULA

Just four days before our event at UC Davis, hundreds of leftist protesters formed a blockade attempting to shut down conservative speaker Ben Shapiro’s event that was hosted by the campus chapter of Young Americans for Freedom.

Jeffrey Minter, a Ben Shapiro fan, described what happened to him in a clip from the upcoming documentary, “Silenced”:

I was thrown to the ground; punched; people threw water at me; I was kicked whenever I was near people, they were kicking my shins. It was just violence, and they kept shouting “No violence!” at us the entire time, which was really odd in my mind, because, first off, a [human] wall is violence. Stopping people’s movement is the first act of violence.

A woman named Sarah Williams also attended the event, saying that she just wanted to “attend a lecture about free speech.” She said later:

Once you tried to get towards the people who were organizing the event or towards the front door of the auditorium, people immediately started shoving you, spitting on you, I was called a ‘racist c–t’ by grown men. . . the protesters who were supposedly protesting in peace, as they were screaming “No violence!” were punching me, kicking me. I was physically assaulted and pinned against a wall, and told there is no cop to help me now.

#2: Leftist Admits She Doesn’t Want to Have a Civil Discussion

Another example: About one month ago, a female student approached some guys who had a pro-capitalism booth. To be fair, these guys act pretty obnoxiously eventually, but notice how the video begins: (Warning, very strong language.)

Conservatives: “Okay, well when you do that, we’re never gonna have a civil discussion.”
Leftist: “I don’t give a f–k. I don’t want to have a civil discussion, I want to call you a–holes.”

After she calls them a bunch of offensive names like “worms,” the video ends this way:

Conservatives: “So, are you gonna make a point, or…”
Leftist: “No, I’m just yelling at you, that’s my point.”

#3: Yale Student Screams at Faculty that the Campus Should be a “Place of Comfort”

In November of last year hundreds of Yale students called for the resignation of Associate Master of Silliman College Erika Christakis after she made comments about balancing the right to free expression with the value of not being purposefully offensive in racist ways.

Watch a part of a confrontation her husband, Master of Silliman College, Nicholas Christakis, who defended her statements:

#4: Milo Yiannopoulos event at DePaul University

The most recent example of absurd leftist behavior on a college campus was at an event by conservative speaker Milo Yiannopoulos at DePaul University (click here to read Breitbart’s summary of what happened, fair warning, some of the description of the event is crude). Protesters completely took over and shut down the event. They took over the stage, grabbed a microphone from an interviewer, and even threatened to punch Yiannopoulos. There was plenty of campus security present and they refused to do anything to protect the university’s invited guest.

It’s gotten so bad that former ACLU president Nadine Stressen said in an interview with JConline:

Surveys have been done, including one recently by Pew (Research Center) about attitudes of college students and faculty members and of young people generally. They show very tepid support and, in some cases opposition, to cardinal free speech principles. You know, Oliver Wendell Holmes saying, “Freedom from the thought that we hate,” is just not cutting the mustard with people on college campuses. … Sadly, support for robust free speech is declining among liberals as it’s ascending among conservatives. And faculties typically are dominated by liberals. … It really appalls me, based on experience and not just theory, because censorship is the most damaging thing to anybody who lacks political power or espousing a minority position.

Click the video below to watch her full speech at Purdue University, “Freedom for the Thought that We Hate:”

Even President Obama has criticized this terrifying trend:

So what should we do in the future when we experience this kind of protest or censorship?

At the time of writing this, the ERI staff is undecided regarding whether our experiment at UC Davis was the best option. Our main concern with abortion images on signs is that we think it often interferes with productive dialogue. But what if protesters shut down dialogue? Do we just leave with our tails between our legs? Or do we at least allow passersby to know what the protesters are supporting? On one hand, abortion images are particularly effective at cutting through the rhetoric of handmade signs with lame slogans. On the other hand, it’s not like the environment became more conducive to dialogue after we let Project Truth take over. Most likely we will come up with a third option, bringing something on campus that can be used as a counter-protest, but without discouraging productive dialogue. Then we will film the people who are attempting to censor us and expose the evil after the fact. Conservative speakers who experience this kind of resistance should do the same. As I’ve said before, any open-minded person should be disgusted whenever people try to silence their political opposition. If leftists are confident that truth is on their side, then they should be humiliated by the pattern of leftists censoring conservative viewpoints on college campuses in the name of “creating safe spaces.”

 

Question: How do you think conservatives should respond to campus censorship?

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  • Tweet: Many pro-choice students and faculty of universities are not interested in rational discussion.

The post “How Should Conservatives Respond to the Disturbing Trend of Campus Censorship?” originally appeared at the Equal Rights Institute blogClick here to subscribe via email and get exclusive access to a FREE MP3 of Josh Brahm’s speech, “Nine Faulty Pro-Life Arguments and Tactics.”

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Director of Training

Timothy Brahm is the Director of Training at Equal Rights Institute. He is interested in helping pro-life and pro-choice people to have better dialogues about abortion through 1) taking care to understand what the other person means, 2) using more carefully-constructed arguments, and 3) treating each other with care and respect. He graduated from Biola University with a B.A. in philosophy and is a perpetual member of the Torrey Honors Institute.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

  • Does the university administrations’ indifference ever amount to failure to fulfill a contractual commitment, such that they could be sued, and is there any organization that would have the means to take on a suit? The Pacific Justice Institute? (I know little about them, but I’ll just throw that name out.)

    • We absolutely believe it is important for conservative groups to sue the university when their rights (either constitutional or contractual) have been violated, if the lawsuit is viable. Alliance Defending Freedom is a great organization for this, and we usually partner with them. David Hacker, who serves as senior legal counsel and director of ADF’s University Team, is on our Advisory Board. Unfortunately in this case we didn’t get the kind of evidence ADF would need for a viable lawsuit. This is why we recently bought some cameras (similar to GoPro’s) to better document free speech violations in the future.

  • Defensor Vitae

    Sad to think this country is being taken over by Kool Aid-drinking, intolerant commies who have nothing to contribute to society except spread their unholy venom.

    • Crystal

      Not all of us liberals agree with the far left either. We think of them as cultural Marxists and they have nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with the ideals of liberalism as I understand them. So please don’t put us all in one box, cause we’re a diverse bunch.

      • I just started reading an interview that looks really good with the author of Defenders of the Unborn: The Pro-Life Movement Before Roe v. Wade.

        Several state pro-life organizations of the pre-Roe
        era coupled their demands for restrictive abortion laws with a call for
        expanded social welfare programs for pregnant women and infants, and
        some called for the expansion of the War on Poverty. Many pro-life
        activists opposed the Vietnam War. Pro-lifers’ insistence on using the
        arguments of secular human rights liberalism enabled a movement that had
        started among Catholics to begin attracting the support of a number of
        liberal Protestants and a few Jews in the early 1970s.

        . . .

        If it were not for the religious difference, the activists on both
        sides of the debate would have seemed remarkably similar. Most were
        physicians. Most were also New Deal liberals who wanted to help the less
        fortunate and improve societal well-being. Both sets of activists
        thought that their own position on abortion advanced liberal values.

        http://religionandpolitics.org/2016/05/31/when-being-pro-life-did-not-mean-being-conservative/

        • Crystal

          Thank you. That is worth passing along to my legal abortion advocate friends. They tell me that prolife had its roots in Jerry Falwell and racism, and since people didn’t want to come out and say, they wanted segregation/other racist measures back, they used this instead.

          • I think that the biggest single source of the big divide on this issue is people’s differing perceptions of the unborn. Some people sincerely don’t get how something that is small and doesn’t yet have eyelids or anything can matter. And those people don’t believe that pro-lifers can sincerely feel that the unborn matters either. So their imaginations start working overtime trying to imagine what pro-lifers’ real motivations are.

            • Crystal

              Funny thing, they can back up their claims with sources, history, etc. That doesn’t mean the first PL people weren’t feminists, nor does it invalidate the real liberal input on the question. I do agree with you though.

              Would you say their sources are BS?

              I for one have been accused by antagonistic legal abortion advocates (only one) of not caring for the unborn, not really, because I won’t condone violence against PP etc. You remember that discussion, I’m sure, because I referenced Wilberforce, Luther King Jr, and Paul as examples against this idea that you must be violent to really care about your cause.

              • “Would you say their sources are BS?”

                I would think very critically about the methodology of any study or history claiming to know people’s inner motivations, because inner motivations are hard to know. But in the end, they might convince me that X pro-lifer was motivated by fear of women’s sexual freedom, for instance.

                But if they went on to say that because X was motivated in that way, therefore I and all the pro-lifers I know very well must also be motivated in that way (especially if the people saying that felt that the unborn don’t matter), I would say that regarding me and all the pro-lifers I know very well, their imaginations are working overtime because our real motivation is just beyond them.

      • We were very intentional about our use of the word “leftists” instead of “liberals” in this piece, for that very reason.

      • Thomas

        Hi Crystal. Are you an American liberal or European one, if of course I may ask…

        • Crystal

          Unsure. Just … liberal on some areas, conservative on others. Although my thoughts have been strongly influenced by the American liberal vs conservative debate. I’m actually a Kiwi :)

          Off-topic (with apologies to the moderator) but how’s PJ4 and Infa going? I’m asking because we spoke, briefly, but never really got a chance to carry on our conversation indepth.

  • CentralCASue

    Considering that the administration is in full agreement with these “protesters” …conservatives can’t really expect much help from folks that think this form of free speech *should* be quashed.

    Perhaps at some point, a class action lawsuit might be the only option to bringing state colleges back in line. Private colleges are another matter entirely.

    • amongoose

      You sue the administrators, personally. When they have to answer for the behavior they have promoted and taught, they will change.

      If the University pays the price they nothing will change.

      • Crystal

        YES.

  • Crystal

    I am a leftist liberal and I am humiliated by the silencing of free speech. More thoughts later.

  • Crystal

    “I asked because American liberalism is the ‘anything goes’ type and to read you being influenced by this ideology is surprising to me”

    This response is for later, when you have time. Could you please tell me why you’re surprised by my “being influenced by this ideology”? I’m curious as to your reasoning but I have no problem waiting. I have to work anyway.

    Unfortunately I can’t directly ask the aforementioned ladies because I don’t – and cannot – have an account at present. But sure I’ll take a look in your profile :)

    I hope we can still have plenty of good online conversations despite the political differences. I like your avatar :)

    • Thomas

      Good morning here and good afternoon to you Kiwi!

      American bonafide liberals are “prochoice” but I’ve met only a few of the classical liberal orientation who are not.

      Liberals are also socialist – leaning politically here and strong believers in “the living Constitution” (loose constructionism) approach to domestic policy.

      In my view, neither liberalism as represented by the Democratic Party in the USA nor leftism (the extreme approach to social issues) are conducive to a healthy society.

      “The Facts of Life are Conservative”

      ~ Margaret Thatcher

      • Crystal

        Hi, thanks for writing back. As to what you say, fair enough.

        I’m not sure how a “living Constitution” is supposed to work anyway, or any interpretation of the US Constitution so please don’t ask me about that. I would appreciate an explanation though.

        What is a classical liberal orientation? Sorry to ask but I don’t know very much about that kind of label.

        When I say “liberal” I was thinking more of issues like animal rights, the environment, feminism, gay rights, paid maternity leave*, race relations, that sort of thing. However I am also conservative in some areas like the PL thing, I can see fundamentalist Islam is a problem, I have no problem with small businesses, I believe you should be allowed to carry a weapon on yourself for self-defense provided you’re not using it to intimidate or hurt anyone, I believe in free speech, and I detest Obamacare because our medical system is socialistic and shocking where we live. Therefore, truthfully, I tend to be a conservative liberal or a liberal conservative or a moderate because I take the best from as many sides as possible.

        *I especially think paid maternity leave and social safety nets would go a long way to reducing abortions so I support those. Can you point out anything problematic with this strategy?

        I would really like to know what led you to be a conservative and why?

        Hope you have a good day – or night – wherever you are.

      • Crystal

        What do you believe the best way is for dealing with abortion?

        Also, what do you believe is a good strategy for dealing with speech censorship on campuses?

  • Crystal

    Hi, I apologise for the late response. Between real life and gathering a couple articles this reply took me a little longer to compile than it should have.

    I’m actually a lot younger than you – early twenties, to be exact.

    You mentioned the Cold War. Just out of curiosity, did you fight in the Cold War? I’m also asking because I have a great respect for war veterans. I’ve never been to Chicago but I hear they have a great mission there called Pacific Garden Mission, and they help a lot of unfortunate people to have a better life. I wish more people cared like that.

    “You and I have more in common than you thought eh”

    Firstly, in what ways do you think that Obamacare will ultimately destroy America’s healthcare system?

    Yes, we do have some beliefs in common, and this is why I generally enjoy speaking to a variety of people with differing beliefs across the spectrum of opinions out there. I agree with you about the Obamacare! It’s disgusting that legal abortion advocates would accuse prolifers of not really caring about prolifism by refusing to support Obamacare, especially considering the massive failure that it is. However the other system that requires all people to pay doctors including the poor, and stereotypes those that cannot contribute as lazy is also morally questionable because a doctor should give his/her services for free as s/he is a servant of the people; I think this mentality encouraged the rise of socialist healthcare. Both frameworks have problems and there needs to be an alternative to this. I don’t know why it is that the government can’t pay
    the doctor’s salary out of their own tax money. Furthermore doctors need to care about and love their patients, and put them *before* any other consideration.

    The quality of healthcare has absolutely gone down in NZ. Now people either refuse to go to the hospital and seek alternative treatments or they go, put themselves under the medical system, and receive all kinds of bogus diagnoses and scheduled on a waiting list until they can be treated. I’ve learned that it’s best to stay out of the medical system unless you absolutely need them,
    like in the case of childbearing or a life-threatening illness when you *do* require the help.

    Also, abortion and euthanasia have drastically decreased the quality of healthcare. Worst part of that is that they are considering making euthanasia legal in this country. Have you heard of the movie Me Before You? Sadly, the biggest reason
    people support euthanasia is that they desire to be compassionate toward the suffering; sometimes they have even watched a relative die in excruciating pain and I agree that is a difficult thing to go through. That being said, I don’t think euthanasia is the answer to this moral dilemma. I think that unethical doctors are your worst potential murderers because they know your body and the way it works inside out. Funny thing, Jesus healed for free, asking for nothing in return.

    Last but not least, what about the ethics of continuous consent as relating to euthanasia? This is a pamphlet Planned Parenthood put out in regards to continuous consent in sexual relations:

    https://www.facebook.com/PlannedParenthood/photos/a.401411729874877.116355.342294162453301/1200487149967327/?type=3&theater

    Why should the rules of consent and bodily autonomy be different when it comes to the person receiving euthanasia?

    Just my two cents on Obamacare and related issues.

    You said, “I will never accept any form of liberalism due to it’s socialist leanings.”

    This is why I asked in a previous comment, “What do you believe the best way is for dealing with abortion? Also, what do you believe is a good strategy for dealing with speech censorship on campuses?” I would very much appreciate a reply to this query.

    If paid maternity leave and social safety nets were a couple of the best ways to overcome abortion, would you support them? Or do you see problems with these kinds of reduction strategies?

    In regards to the Bathroom Bills, I can sympathise with both perspectives. I realise I risk being name-called on both sides of the fence – a pervert promoter by the conservatives and a transphobic hater by the liberals – but I can understand both where transpeople are coming from in their need to have a
    restroom, and where ciswomen (biologically born women) are coming from when they say they should feel safe when going to the bathroom. I’ve seen people being trashed simply for raising concerns as to the negative impacts of these bills and it saddens me because I think it hurts the very people they are trying to help – transpeople particularly, due to the very high violence rate
    many of them suffer – and also because the concerns that others have about keeping safe from predatory pretenders are just as valid, and just as legitimate. In short I think my side is botching this issue up pretty badly; we should do better than this if we claim to be so progressive in morals, and if we don’t we will rightly earn the label of close-minded, because we have zeal without thought and many on my side are so scared of discriminating against
    transpeople that they will shut up anyone else who has legitimate concerns about negative impacts of these kinds of laws. Feel free to disagree but I am wearied from the antagonism people display toward one another over these kinds of issues and I hope that we can do differently.

    Here are some articles from radical feminists who want both perspectives heard:

    http://www.feministcurrent.com/2016/06/01/everyday-feminism-pulls-article-alice-dreger/

    http://www.feministcurrent.com/2016/06/02/head-of-georgias-aclu-chapter-resigns-over-transgender-bathroom-directive/

    Believe it or not I actually enjoy chatting with conservatives; it’s nice to see where we overlap and where we contrast. Thanks for talking with me, I really appreciate it and I look forward to further conversations in the future. However, I owe an apology to the moderator for getting off-topic, and believe that any off-topic discussions need to be moved to a forum like this one, out of respect for the moderator’s rules:

    blog.secularprolife.org

    It’s good to see we share some beliefs in common; I hope to hear back from you at your earliest convenience but if you don’t want to resume this conversation I will understand as well. Take care and thanks for the chat :)

  • BurtMacklin283

    This is a tough issue. The most important question though, is not what to do about it. You should be asking why is this happening? What is it that compels so many people to have such a viscerally emotional response to peaceful dialogue?

    Look at it from another perspective. Let’s say a mens rights activist set up a booth on campus asking whether it was ‘okay to rape women.’ A large percentage of the female population has been sexually assaulted or harassed before. Many bring intensely personal and emotional experiences to this question and some are likely to react with open hostility to the idea of dialogue respectful or not.

    Another example, on the more extreme end. Let’s say someone set up a booth on campus about whether it was ok to lynch black people. I think few people would be sympathetic to the plea for respectful dialogue on the subject since the subject matter is considered to be so overtly disrespectful to certain people.

    Now before anyone gets in a huff, I am not implying that the Pro-Life movement is in any way similar to racist movements or rape. I do believe that the emotional responses by people of opposing viewpoints are similar though. So wherever you go, you are likely to experience this kind of response. I’d encourage you to calmly talk with these protesters about why they are so upset. I think you’ll find that their answers will support my thesis.

    Respectful dialogue has become very difficult in society today. Too many organizations and groups (and I include the Pro-Life movement here) feel that the very existence of an opposing viewpoint is a personal assault that must be crushed or suppressed or responded to in kind. Pro-Choicers see a Pro-Life event and feel compelled to respond, least there exist in the real world a point without a counterpoint.

    Both sides use ‘freedom of speech’ as a defense for such behavior, but freedom of speech doesn’t exactly mean that you have a right to an audience, only that you have a right to speak without fear of retribution. College campus rules differ, but legally, they only have an obligation to allow you the opportunity to speak. Someone else can freely and legally utilize their right of speech to drown out your message and prevent it from reaching the intended audience and that, I’m afraid, is the way it is meant to work. The founding fathers never intended this to be easy.

    I think the best course of action is to continue to be the more respectful party and to allow the other side to embarrass themselves in the public eye. Unfortunately this strategy only works if the majority of the population sees the movement as being non-aggressive, if the public views outward respectfulness as a facade to dress up an inherently disrespectful platform, it will ultimately fail in forcing the other side to meet you more respectfully.

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