Running a Gauntlet to Avoid an Event Shutdown
My visit to the University of Denver Law School provoked quite a ruckus.
After this week’s visit to the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, I’m not sure I can say any more that the shutdown of my event at UC Hastings a year ago is the only time I’ve ever been protested. But it turned out a bit like a sophomoric philosophy question: if they throw a protest but the subject of the protest isn’t aware of it until he leaves campus, does it make a sound?
Let me explain. This past Tuesday, I was scheduled to speak at an event on “Silencing Minorities: Free Speech in Academia.” It was to be the latest updated version of my talk on the crisis of free speech and cancel culture at law schools and beyond, but the students a clever title. Is anyone really going to try to cancel an event lamenting the cancellation of dissident viewpoints?
The answer is yes. DU Law’s student chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, a hard-left activist group that during the Cold War had been funded by the KGB, spent the week leading up to my event demanding that the administration “cancel” my speech. They circulated a petition that apparently had accumulated close to 200 signatures (not all from students), though after some criticism on Twitter, that open letter stopped being publicly accessible. The National Review’s Nate Hochman had gotten a hold of it, though, and reported that the cancellation campaign wasn’t entirely tied to the tweet that was at the heart of my Georgetown saga.
After mentioning that episode, the NLG letter cited my “attacks on DEI initiatives in higher education” as its primary concern—implicating the work I’d recently been doing with Chris Rufo. If “the University and law school believe that diversity, equity, and inclusion are essential components of a world-class education, then it is beyond debate that hosting a staunch opponent of DEI and racial justice initiatives is inconsistent with that mission.”
Of course, standing up for inclusion and diverse viewpoints (and free speech) doesn’t contradict allowing controversial speech and preventing the “heckler’s veto.” Indeed, they necessitate it—but the NLG (and all others who’ve run these cancellation campaigns) aren’t quite self-aware enough to get that. “We recognize that prohibiting Shapiro from speaking in our law school in some ways plays into his hand. In fact, his proposed speech is about the alleged silencing of conservative academics.” Bingo.