The scourge of the heckler’s veto has regrettably found its way to San Diego, as SDSU officials canceled Milo Yiannopoulos’ upcoming event hosted by the SDSU College Republicans. The reason proffered by SDSU was, predictably, security costs. SDSUPD Chief Josh Mays explained that “officers would need more than six hours and 20 bomb-sniffing dogs to secure Montezuma Hall.”
What? Six hours? 20 bomb-sniffing dogs? Did SDSU confuse Milo with a state official or a foreign dignitary? Milo is a right-wing provocateur whose speech should be rationally viewed as just one more voice on a university campus.
Of course, rationality controls neither the purported security threat nor the university’s response to it. We all witnessed the footage of UC Berkeley erupting into a war zone prior to Milo’s scheduled speech up there, along with less-violent disruptions elsewhere.
This carnage naturally frightens university officials. After all, who wants to deal with that kind of mess? Unfortunately, SDSU’s apparent solution of preventing the subject of the protests from speaking ignores the real issue. Like a doctor focusing on treating a patient’s symptoms without diagnosing the underlying condition, SDSU does nothing to address the cultural problems among its student body that would create the security threat in the first place. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away.
The problem appears to be a growing sentiment among college students that they have the right to an environment free of opinions that offend them. “Safe spaces” and “trigger” theory represent the proposition that college students must be shielded from speech that makes them uncomfortable. Universities have fostered this sentiment, and it appears that students are no longer content with ideological dead zones designated by sympathetic administrators––they want to make the entire campus a safe space free of voices they deem offensive.
This supposed right to not be offended, combined with the emergence of militant leftism, creates a lethal formula for violent reactions to opposing viewpoints. And make no mistake––the elaborate security measures proposed by SDSUPD point directly to fears of Antifa terrorism. No, that’s not a typo––terrorism. The only rational objective for exercising violence against a political shock jock is to intimidate him, his hosts, and their guests. That’s terrorism.
If that condition exists at SDSU and elsewhere in our community, then it behooves law enforcement to seek it our and bring its perpetrators to justice. They are the villains here, not Milo or the College Republicans. Those seeking to engage in lawful speech should not be punished for the malice of others. We Americans pride ourselves for living in a free society where we don’t back down to threats of terrorism.
The proper response from SDSU would be to allow the College Republicans to proceed with their event and enlist law enforcement to do whatever it takes to protect them, and to hunt down and arrest those who would exercise violence against them. That’s how a free society works.
Ryan T. Darby practices civil litigation and free speech law in San Diego. This article was originally published at freespeechsd.law.