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Sunday, August 20, 2017

A THOUGHT

So many important questions have been raised in the comments of the past several days that I find myself somewhat overwhelmed.  Rather than even try at this moment to respond to all of them, let me offer a modest suggestion that has been lodged in the back of my mind for some time now, concerning how to respond on a college campus when a Nazi sympathizer or White Supremecist comes to speak.  The response I propose would require self-discipline and coordination, perhaps beyond what students are capable of, but it would be very interesting to observe its effect.

Suppose, to take an extreme example, that David Duke is invited to speak at Duke [a local university in the next town over from where I live].  There should be not a word of objection or condemnation from anyone on campus.  When he arrives, those opposed to him should pour out and take every available seat in the venue.  If necessary, they should line up days in advance, trying to freeze out any KKK supporters, including those who invited him.  Once in the auditorium, the opposition should sit quietly and neither by word or action evince the slightest response to what Duke says.  There should be no signs, no placards, no chants, no laughter, no booing.  Just dead silence.  Regardless of what Duke says, the audience should remain inert.  When the speaker is done, everyone should get up silently and walk out, leaving a palpable hole in the air, a nothingness.

Trust me.  As one who has given hundreds of public speeches over a long life, I can testify that this would be unnerving.  As a public demonstration it would be far more effective than a noisy confrontation fit for television.  It would be a non-event.  If some Duke supporters get into the event, let them shout their lungs out while all around them is dead silence.  If they are denied the validation of opposition, after a while they will start to feel foolish.

As I say, this would take discipline and coordination.  But it would be vastly more powerful than interfering with Duke’s freedom of speech.  Let us recall that the right to speak does not carry with it a right to be paid attention to, to be taken seriously [this too I can attest as a one-time public speaker!]


This is just a thought, but it would be interesting to see it play out.

4 comments:

David Palmeter said...

An excellent idea. You also make an important point at the end--that the right to free speech does not include he right to be taken seriously or even listened to; nor does it include the right not to be despised for what you say.

Anonymous said...

I've had a similar thought about how to respond to events like Charlottesville. What about doing exactly the opposite of what was done. Empty the town -- turn it into a ghost town. Only the police would remain to protect property. Don't prevent the bad guys from doing their thing. Just make sure no one is watching when they do, except the police.

What they want is a confrontation, which is what they did get. I'm sure they consider last weekend a win. What if they're doing their thing and no one is watching? Of course the news media would cover it (at first), so it would get some attention. But it's a boring story if there's no conflict. Eventually the news media would stop paying attention too. They lose if no one pays these events any attention.

Jerry Brown said...

I like your idea, so long as tickets need not be purchased or other financial support was provided to the speaker through attendance. I would also recommend that ear plugs and perhaps large obvious ear muffs be worn by the crowd of silent protestors. Both for their own mental health and to make it obvious they were not paying attention.

F Lengyel said...

I take the suggestion to give the alt-right the silent treatment to be substantially in agreement with Chomsky that Antifa is "...a major gift to the Right, including the militant Right, who are exuberant." I agree, in any case.