A New Script for Shoutdowns

Peter Wood

On April 18, the activist conservative group Turning Point USA and the Bruin College Republicans co-hosted an event at UCLA under the title, "Exposing Leftist Lies & Progressive Propaganda.”  The president of Turning Point, Charlie Kirk, and Turning Point’s Director of Communications, Candace Owens, addressed the audience.  Before the event got underway, a UCLA official laid down the law that unruly and disruptive students would be removed from the large lecture hall and would be subject to arrest.  A video of the entire event is available here.

A friend of NAS was in the audience and sent us some notes.  Our observer observed what might be a new tactic emerging among partisans of the anarchic left.  Rather than risk getting arrested or suspended by defying a university’s rules against shout-downs, the partisans in the April 18th event engaged in a campaign of persistent heckling. 

Here is a slightly edited version of our observer’s notes.  He asked that his name be withheld.

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Last night caused me to re-think my position on the meaning of 'free speech' and 'shoutdowns'. It was obvious to any observer that Charlie Kirk did not have 'free speech' last night.  Rather, he had an exhausting two-hour struggle for highly restricted speech.   The event was actually little more than a shared argument/altercation, with opponents interrupting roughly 150 times in the two hours. During

this yelling match, Charlie and Candace probably spoke about 60 percent (or at most 65 percent) of the time. Much of this time was not spent on their planned remarks, but rather responding with logic, facts, stats, and reason to the various slogans repeatedly screamed by the hecklers. 

Almost ten percent of the entire evening was merely a long running argument about who was interrupting or listening to whom. That was humorous when it started but soon got boring.  The protestors, however, had an unlimited capacity for boredom and zero capacity for humor. If you watch the videotape, you'd find that opponents 'speaking',  yelling shouting or chanting or rambling incoherently took up the other 35 to 40% of the entire evening.

Others would have given up about halfway through the "Heckle-Down" but Charlie and Candace exercised their nerves of platinum to verbally fight for every sentence they were allowed to say.

It was literally a 'shared' 'speaking' engagement, with the protestors deciding what got shared and when.  That's without taking account of the shattering continuous noise from the protest loudspeakers placed immediately outside the lecture hall side door.

Last night was literally a national script for the 'new' shout-down. The protesters showed step-by-step how to take control of any event, by demonstrating to everyone that they are in control.  They derailed most of the speaker's points and diverted much of the argument to their preferred topics.  They took up a major fraction of the allotted time yelling and screaming their points, while experiencing no negative consequences. By ignoring the actual arguments and information given, the protester attained total victory. They achieved their goals:  all fun, no pain.

The two deans paced the aisles, looking nervous and confused.  For a while they played 'whack-a-mole,' but soon the crowd saw that the deans’ declarations about protecting 'free speech' were utterly meaningless.  An unforgettable evening.

Image Credit: Nikkul

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