David Horowitz, a prominent writer and lecturer from the political right visited UIC a couple of weeks ago. Mr. Horowitz is a respected conservative who has been trying to get his message out to colleges across the nation for a while now. Not surprisingly, as capitals of liberalism, most of the colleges and universities in the U.S. have not been very open to his visits. It is somewhat ironic that most of the institutions of higher learning in this country that proudly pretend to be open to the free expression of ideas behave like close-minded bigots.
Last week the Chicago Flame wrote an editorial about what took place the night of Mr. Horowitz's visit:
"The real disappointment...came during the lecture. Students with opposing viewpoints consistently made rude, obnoxious and inappropriate comments to the speaker. For supposed free speech advocates, they sure did nothing to show they support that cause."
The highlight was when a man on his way out the door shouted "Vote Democratic!" in the middle of Mr. Horowitz's speech. This man obviously believes so strongly in free speech (usually considered the major issue for those from the left) that he would impose on Mr. Horowitz's free speech to make the loud recommendation. If I were going to immaturely yell something out to draw attention to myself and interrupt a presentation, I would have come up with something better than "Vote Democratic!" Thanks for the tip, though, anonymous ranter, I'll take that into consideration the next time I want higher taxes and a weaker national defense.
The content of Mr. Horowitz's lecture is material for another column. The guest speaker had the right to present his views without constant outbursts and interruptions. Many people kept yelling out "You're a racist," or "You're a liar." Just let the man speak for himself.
In this week's Chicago Flame, Jessica Maiorca, a woman who attended the lecture and is a member of UIC No War and the Chicagoland Student Anti-War Network, wrote a letter to the Chicago Flame about the incident. Apparently Ms. Maiorca felt that the Flame was wrongly accusing her of being one of the "disrupters." The Flame wrote that "The woman (Ms. Maoirca thinks this refers to her) made several scornful remarks to Horowitz on the topic of Iraq."
In her own defense Ms. Maiorca writes "Actually, I did not. I laughed at his name-calling and I did speak up to point out that Timothy McVeigh was neither Muslim nor Arab."
This is my point exactly. This was a lecture. Not a "yell out the truth if the speaker says something you disagree with or if he leaves something out" town hall shoutfest. Mr. Horowitz didn't say that McVeigh was Arab or Muslim, he was talking about current terrorists and discussing the issue of racial profiling. Even if he was saying something untrue, racist, anti-homosexual, or whatever, he had the floor and he had the right to say it. People could speak out against him at another time; there needed to be, in Horowitz's own words, "a certain decorum" present in order for the meeting to continue.
So the issue here is not Horowitz's opinions but the conditions of free speech. A student organization had set up the lecture and the conditions of attendance were such that those present would not create a disturbance. There was nothing wrong with protesters outside the hall speaking out against Horowitz, but if you were going to come into the hall it needed to be quiet. This all goes back to the First Amendment right to "peaceably assemble."
Horowitz took an unapologetic tone and spoke strongly about his views. It wasn't wrong to disagree with Horowitz or how he was presenting his opinions, but it WAS wrong to constantly interrupt the speech with immature laughing and shouting, and then gripe about "free speech" on the way out the door.
After the lecture came the "question" and answer period. This was when the real fireworks began. Evidently to many leftists present, the word question is code for "stand up and prove to everyone how smart you are by insulting the guest speaker" time. A few people gave three minute mini-lectures to Mr. Horowitz, with one girl even insulting his intelligence, saying that she wouldn't give him any numbers to think about because "I know that math makes your brain hurt." Come on. At one point during her presentation, someone from the back of the room yelled what many people were already thinking: "Ask the question!"
Even a UIC political science professor got into the mix. If people think that a well-educated member of the school faculty would raise the dialogue by asking a well-informed, pertinent question, they would have been very disappointed. The professor said that Mr. Horowitz would have failed her freshman course due to lack of research and again "asked" a "question" that more resembled a two minute soapbox rant. She kept asking where Horowitz got his figures. Mr. Horowitz would say the "US Census," then the professor would say "That's not true." "U.S. Census"- "That's not true," "U.S. Census"- "That's not true." I was waiting for the professor to break out with the liar, liar pants on fire bit, but the discussion didn't fall quite that far.
This whole lecture experience is another example of how many liberals look at the issues of the day. To many liberals, you either agree with them or you are (insert expletive here) racist, sexist, anti-gay, uneducated, uninformed, or just plain stupid. Free speech does not only apply to those from the left, it applies to everyone, including David Horowitz (gasp!). Mr. Horowitz and those present at his lecture had the right to "peaceably assemble." All the name calling, all the insults, all the shouting, and all the interruptions in the world won't change what was written into the Constitution 225 years ago.