Sunday, February 26, 2012

“Mic-Check”: Verbal Terrorism and Pushback at UNM

Last Thursday evening when my class on Case Study ended, I stuffed my papers in my notebook and hurried across campus to hear Nonie Darwish speak. I expected a good, tightly focused talk by a woman who has experienced the oppression of Sharia Law firsthand. I did wondered briefly as I approached the Anthropology Building from the rear and cut through the side-hallway where the labs are, whether anyone would attempt to block me getting in, but the night was quiet as a brand new moon dropped in the west.

Nonie Darwish is the daughter of Egyptian General, born during the Revolution of 1952, and is now an American by virtue of her passionate love for liberty. She has spoken at many universities, as well as before the United States Congress, the European Union Parliament, and the British House of Lords.

She was brought to the University of New Mexico by two campus groups, the UNM Israel Alliance and the UNM Conservative Republicans, with funding from the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and sponsorships from organizations affiliated with local synagogues and churches. Her talk was entitled Why the Arab Spring is Failing and How Israel is Involved.

I walked past a dessert table set up by the Israel Alliance, and took a bottle of water on the way in. I was just in time for the talk, so I did not linger. As I went by the table I noticed a young man standing holding a sign that read: “Stop Israel Apartheid.” I swept past him and sat down next to fellow members of Congregation Albert with whom I share almost no political views except support of Israel. We greeted one another with Shalom’s and Howdy Do’s and settled in as Nonie was introduced.

Nonie came on stage, a small, round woman dressed in slacks and a simple red top, full of energy and passion. From the moment she launched into it, her talk was not disappointing. Her thesis was that no Muslim country can expect anything from revolution other than more tyranny because of the structure of Sharia Law, which dictates all aspects of life for Muslims, including the structure and practices of the Islamic state. Throughout her talk, she reiterated that her hatred was not for Muslim people as individuals, but rather for the Sharia Law that keeps them enslaved to a brutal system, one that openly preaches violence against women and non-Muslims.

At the point where Nonie began speaking about the duties and responsibilities of a Muslim dictator under Sharia, there erupted from the back of the room a chant: “Mic Check!” a small group yelled, “Israel is an apartheid state!” I stood up to get a better idea of who was doing what, and I had a terrible sinking feeling that we, the people who had come to hear Nonie Darwish speak, would see her silenced. This initiation of force against those they wish to silence is a favorite tactic of the left. The call for “mic check!” became a favorite method of the Occupy Wall Street “movement”, who have such a sense of entitlement that they act on the belief that only they have freedom of speech because only they have something to say.

So as the disruptors continued their chant, I began chanting: “USA! USA!” I had learned this tactic to counter disruptions when I was trained to monitor Tea Party rallies. But New Mexicans are so generally laid back that we never had occasion to use our training at the Tea Parties. Other audience members had the same idea, and it seemed like many of us started chanting back at the same time, turning to face the disruptive element at the back of the room.

As we stood there chanting, I looked around for security or the UNM police, but neither were anywhere in evidence. (Apparently no one thought it was needed, because those with opposite views in the past had politely tolerated each other’s events). Instead several older men approached the disruptors in a businesslike fashion, and it looked like they were going to force them from the room. One man tried to grab the script from the hands of the leader, but failed. Another seemed to trip over feet or a chair and landed on some of the disruptors. I saw one female disruptor shout “No violence! No violence!”, as these men forced them whole lot of them out of the room. I remember thinking to myself: Sweetie, you asked for it when you used violence against Nonie’s freedom of speech and our right to hear the talk we came to hear.” She looked like one of the (un)Occupy Wall Street chics I had seen last fall, the one who thought it was not okay to occupy except when she was the one doing the occupying.

As soon as the little barbarians were out of the room, people settled down, and Nonie commented: You must feel sorry for them. They cannot stand to have their prejudices confounded by the truth. They hate anyone who disagrees with them, and call them vile names, but they call me the hate monger.” She then continued her speech.

There was one other disruption that came when the President of the Faculty Senate got up and first accused Nonie of hate speech, citing a You Tube video of her speech at a rally honoring an honor killing victim. As Nonie responded that the video had been edited, the dimwit professor went on to interrupt her, and then began to make a speech. The audience was once again on edge, and angry at this professor who had apparently forgotten that the floor was his only to ask a question. There was some booing, but he went on in his ignorant arrogance, until I called out: “What’s you question, sir?” Then another audience member took the microphone from him, and handed it to the next questioner in line.

From that point on, there were no further disruptions, although many questioners disputed Nonie’s talk, and one called her a “bigot.”

Later I learned that the disruptive element came from a campus group, Students for Justice in Palestine, and the (un)Occupy Albuquerque movement. (That familiar looking chic was exactly who I thought she was). Both groups have a very privileged view of rights, believing that they have them because they are right about everything, and nobody else has rights. Therefore, they believe that they have a right to occupy a lecture sponsored and paid for by someone else, and try to shut the speaker down. Of course, the Heckler’s Veto*, as it is popularly called is the initiation of force against the speaker and those who came to hear her. It is violation of the rights of everyone else in the room. As a UC Irvine law professor states:

“You have the right – if you disagree with me – to go outside and perform your protest. But you don’t get the right to come in when I’m talking and shout me down. Otherwise people can always silence a speaker by heckler’s veto, and Babel results.”

Babel did result, but only until the entitled barbarians were forced from the room. No one was hurt, and the men who removed them used only as much force as was necessary to remove them. That force was invited by the disruptive ones themselves, when they initiated force against the speaker the audience came to hear.

This incident leads me to believe that taxpayer money is being wasted at the University of New Mexico. Students there clearly have no idea what rights mean, and believe that they are entitled to shut down a speaker invited and paid for by a campus group because they happen to disagree with her. Others claimed that: “This is OUR university”, to which the audience rightly replied: “No. It is our university. Our tax money built it and funds it.” I would suggest to the dimwit professor who believes he has the right to turn a question into a speech that perhaps he ought to spend his time learning what his contractual responsibilities are, and what the definition of a public lecture is. The event was not a public forum. But even in a public forum, individuals must follow the rules of decorum, taking the floor only when it is yielded and for the purposes defined by the speaker or moderator.

I will be voting no on every bond issue or other allocation of money to UNM until the New Mexico Legislature gets control of the place, and requires all students and faculty to take courses and demonstrate competence in respect for rights, the understanding the difference between rights and privileges (hint: attending university at public expense is not a right, it is a privilege), and in the manners and mores required at public lectures, forums and other events.

I’d say that these kinds of events definitely turn the Town against the Gown. Taxpayers begin to understand why in days of old, the town used to lock the barbarians inside the gates of the University each night at sundown, letting them out on rare occasions and only when they minded their manners and respected their betters—the ones paying for it all.

Hmmm. Maybe we should build a wall around Redondo Drive. A cast-iron gate decorated with gargoyles would be fitting right in front of Sholes Hall.

But until then, I am glad that pushback has started against these barbarian tactics aimed at quashing speech that certain elitist academics have decided must not be heard. And in the process, they demonstrated quite well the truth that Nonie Darwish came to speak.

*This popular notion of the Heckler’s Veto is different than the legal definition, which is the unconstitutional silencing of speech by the government because of a threat of violence on the part of the speaker’s opposition.


A video of Nonie Darwish’s entire speech at UNM may be found here.

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