February 10, 2009

SMU: Shut Me Up?

Oops! Looks like I spoke too soon when I said those five YouTube videos were the entirety of Jojo's presentation before it was, ahem, aborted by St. Mary's U. officials. It appears there are actually 14 or 15 parts total, including Jojo completing his presentation off-site at a nearby church that was made available. As far as I can tell, there's no disturbance at the church and, unfortunately, the audio quality isn't great, so I won't bother posting those; feel free to look them up if you are so inclined.

Part 6:

I finally got some of Part 5 to load; where we last left our heroes, the Kampus Kops had finally arrived and taken the piece of paper down from the projector window, and Jojo resumed his talk. Then the thugettes started whining again: "Unbelievable! I can't even believe this is happening," rants the voice I've started calling the Whinette in Chief. "You are ridiculous. I don't even want to hear another word from you, I can't believe it. What kind of human being are you? What do your parents think about you?"

"They're actually really proud of what I do," replies Jojo. Applause.

Jojo hits the core theme of his pro-life message: We all know that abortion kills something; it is imperative to determine what that something is, before you can decide what to do with it. While there are differences between born people and unborn people, none of them are relevant to the question of thier identity. During this time, the thugettes are chattering loudly amongst themselves but not aggressively disrupting the talk.

Part 7:

Jojo continues to speak with thugette chatter and the occasional heckle in the background.

Part 8:

Having established what the unborn are, it's part of Jojo's presentation to show his audience what abortion does to them, and he began to show a video of abortion remains. (Even being recorded off a screen on a camcorder, some readers might find these disturbing, so consider yourself warned.) Up goes the piece of paper over the projector window again. This time, the campus police deliver their ultimatum to the protesters: Behave, or be arrested. They wisely choose the former.

Unfortunately, only a few minutes later, an SMU official arrives and declares the lecture cancelled: bizarrely, the school has decided to shut up the speaker rather than discipline the people actually causing the disturbance. The school's press release on the subject is, frankly, mealy-mouthed:

Protesters were asked to stop disrupting the event, but after more than an hour and a half, the presentation was relocated to a nearby location. Protesters were given the opportunity to ask questions and debate the speaker’s points, but they chose instead to shout slogans and prevented him from fully presenting.

Relocating the event, though regrettable, allowed the speaker to complete his presentation.

In the blogosphere, the apologists for the pro-abortion shouters are starting to come out now. One blog in particular, Blevkog, notes: "I can comprehend the fact that some people are possessed of such naiveté that they are surprised by the reactions of people to the expression of certain opinions or views." Fair enough, I say - and as I noted earlier, I suspect that if Jojo was truly shocked by the protests, it was due to the intensity rather than the fact of them (after all, one student Politburo has already attempted to shut down the campus pro-life club after it invited him to debate, and another shut his debate down pre-emptively).

On the other hand, Blevkog adds:

I take issue with the way the Chronically Horrid [Ha! Hadn't heard that one before. - Ransom] has semantically constructed their story to make Ruba the aggrieved party, while (if true) the fact that he got to continue his talk was left out. (emphasis added)

And in a later post on the same subject, commenting on the University's statement, he adds:

Free speech means just that: the freedom to speak about what you want, when you want (I’m not going to launch into a discussion of hate speech right at this moment - that way lies madness). The university’s position, no matter how much we may dislike it, is completely defensible, and would likely have been made in a similar way if the positions were reversed. In fact, by letting him talk, and display just how ignorant and deluded he is, the university has done everyone a favor. (Emphasis added)

There, it's all right. See? He "got to continue"; the university "let him talk." Except that Blevkog plays down the fact that the talk continued at a church off-campus, where he didn't need the university's permission. Jojo was "free" to speak in the same sense as if you don't like your workplace's recent unionization, you're "free" to seek other employment. Similarly, one YouTube commenter argues that "you seem to have mistaken 'free speech' for 'consequence free speech.'" In other words, say what you want, only if you depart from the campus orthodoxy, there will be consequences. Nice video clip. Shame if something happened to it.

"Free speech," in these Orwellian planets we call university campuses, means "free to do it my way or the highway." To what extent is speech "free" if someone else can control what you say, whether through authority or intimidation tactics?