[update below] [2nd update below] [3rd update below]
In 2011 I had a post on hecklers—prompted by the disruption of Michael Oren’s talk at UC-Irvine—in which I expressed my hatred of this subspecies of humanity (though, for the record, I did issue an exception in a post in 2013). Everyone’s read about what happened at Middlebury College last Thursday, of author Charles Murray being shouted down at the talk he was about to give, run out of town on a rail, and with his host, Middlebury professor Allison Stanger, physically assaulted in the process. Now I am not a fan of Murray’s—and certainly not of his reprehensible work on blacks and IQ—but he is a prominent conservative intellectual and with the requisite credentials to give a public lecture at an establishment of higher education, so what happened to him was quite simply outrageous. The commentaries in The Atlantic by Peter Beinart and Conor Friedersdorf say what needs to be said. As for the hecklers, they should/must be sanctioned and with the perpetrators of the assault on Prof. Stanger expelled from the college outright.
BTW, my attitude was the same in regard to the disruption of Milo Yiannopoulos’s event at UC-Berkeley last month. Now Milo Y. is not a scholar, loin de là, and should have probably not been invited to speak at the UCB campus in the first place, but once he was, he should have been allowed to proceed without disruption. As for the violence from outside agitating black bloc voyous, this was unacceptable and could only play into Milo Y.’s hands. On the matter, UCB graduate student Sean Freeder, writing on Facebook, had one of the more intelligent commentaries I saw at the time.
When confronted with beyond-the-pale speakers, people should take a leaf from my alma mater, Antioch College, in 1964, when George Lincoln Rockwell came to campus. Students packed Kelly Hall, listened to him in silence, and when he finished, rose as one and silently walked out. Rockwell said later that it was the worst reception he ever received. If Milo Y. had been copiously ignored at UCB, he would have no doubt felt likewise.
UPDATE: Yale Law School professor Stephen L. Carter has a tribune (March 6th) in Bloomberg View, “The ideology behind intolerant college students.” And that ideology, if one wants to call it that, is Herbert Marcuse’s 1965 essay on “repressive tolerance,” which, as it happens, was in vogue during my day at Antioch College. In fact, I clearly remember a Marxist philosophy professor approvingly invoke the notion at an event in the aforementioned Kelly Hall in 1974 or ’75. Autres temps, mêmes mœurs.
2nd UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan weighs in on the Middlebury affair in his weekly essay in New York magazine (March 10th), in which he asks “Is intersectionality a religion?”
3rd UPDATE: Professor Allison Stanger writes in The New York Times (March 13th) on “Understanding the angry mob at Middlebury that gave me a concussion.”