For years RR has documented the sad retreat of our fundamental rights and liberties, the withdrawal of which has not caused many an eyebrow to be raised among the country’s gruberized hosts. Instead, it has given rise to celebrations of every newly minted political correctness by our neighbors on the Left – for an enlightened society is a society mandated, monitored, and moderated.
The latest of these celebrate the advent of what has become known as the ‘heckler’s veto’. This is where a protest - no matter its size, source, or legitimacy – can shut down free speech and cause exercises of the First Amendment to be reclassified as “mechanisms of subordination”. This, in the eyes of the Left, removes any such protested speech from under the protective umbrella of said amendment.
In the recent past we have seen hecklers’ vetoes shut down entrepreneur Peter Thiel’s speech in Berkeley, invited commencement speeches by Condoleezza Rice and Christine Lagarde, and (seatbelts please) the ban on wearing American flag T-shirts in an American school on Cinco de Mayo “to avert violence”. The list can be extended indefinitely, but you get the idea.
Other initiatives are in the works such as Muslims colonizing western countries working through their Organization of the Islamic Conference to pass laws that prohibit the “defamation of religion” and “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination”. On the secular side China has successfully squelched the participation of their dreaded Falun Gong - a religious society proscribed in China - in holiday observances and exhibitions within these United States.
Starting back in 1989 with the fatwa calling for the murder of Salman Rushdie (for writing The Satanic Verses), we have seen a progressive growth of such hecklers’ vetoes that most recently gave us North Korea’s attempted censoring of Sony’s movie ‘The Interview’. To my mind the greatest victim of this scourging of the First Amendment has been the abrogation of free speech on the campuses of America’s colleges and universities that are run amok by their leftwing administrations and professoriates. And sadly, when we listen to our indoctrinated young emerging from government schools, there is much more of that to come as we recall that great nations, impervious to outside assault, have instead fallen from within. (More here. Image by David Klein from the 30dec14 WSJ.)
[update] From this post's comment stream with contributions on both sides of the ‘who suppresses free speech’ issue, I have noticed that the main point which I and David Klein want to emphasize seems to have been either completely missed, or is simply not accessible to some readers. So let me be more explicit. The protesting of something by speaking out against it is does not satisfy the definition of ‘heckler’s veto’. For example groups or event speakers railing against abortion clinics or gun rights has nothing to do with such a veto, simply because the target of the speech – operation of the clinics or private gun ownership – is not impeded by the protesting speech. But if such protest or threat of protest suppresses (or effectively vetoes) someone’s ongoing or planned expression of free speech, then that is a de facto ‘heckler’s veto’. In other words, to be a heckler’s veto such heckling must make the targeted speech impossible or induce authorities to shut it down and/or prevent its future expression.