Peaceful discourse, civil protest, and open debate have all been essential to the American experience. Living in a country designed to protect our God-given right to free speech, you’d think we’d be able to discuss controversial topics without aggressive disruption or fear of violence. Even more so on our university and college campuses, once heralded as pioneers of free speech even in America, open debate of new ideas should be welcome.
But what happens when seemingly half the country is hell-bent on silencing the speech of those who disagree, especially on our college campuses?
Obscene Zoom Bombing
Recently, I was asked to speak at a Black Conservative event titled “Black Conservatism: The Past, Present, and Future” at the University of Madison-Wisconsin. Ryan Owen, a UW law professor, brought this event together. Diante Johnson, Dr. Carol Swain, Dr. Wilfred Reilly, Bob Woodson, and I were tasked with presenting the ideals of Black Conservatism to a left-leaning college campus.
Protests of conservative events are expected nowadays at colleges. But because it was a beautiful fall morning and since Wisconsin is notorious for its harsh winter weather, we suspected that any left-leaning protestors would rather enjoy the day than waste a lovely afternoon on us. Another UW professor attending the event stated that she didn’t expect protesters to attend because it was a Saturday, and college students wouldn’t protest unless they could skip class. We started the event smoothly without fear of disruption. No protestors were in attendance, or so we thought. We each gave our speeches, which were also being streamed live on Zoom, and headed into the question-and-answer portion of the event.
But as Diante Johnson was carefully answering a question, we heard profanities shouted at us via Zoom: “F—- you!” repeatedly and other profanities too obscene to mention in this blog. Soon, we noticed several accounts logging into Zoom in an attempted takeover. The event organizers had two choices: shut down the live stream, which would cut off one of our remote speakers and those watching through Zoom, or try to kick out the disrupters one at a time. As they scrambled to find the accounts to shut down, a man turned on his camera, pulled down his pants, and started masturbating. Another disrupter shared their screen with hardcore pornography. Did I mention an 8-year-old girl in the audience? At this point, there was no choice but to shut down the stream.
After the incident, Dr. Carol Swain said it perfectly:
I think the Left is so well coordinated, and so they decided they were not going to protest here in person; they get online where they can hide, and they do these things. That’s where we are as a society. Whoever has hijacked the program or tried to, they think they are doing something great. They are so ignorant.
This incident is, regrettably, all too familiar to me. In 2020, I spoke at a Zoom event in California on Affirmative Action, and we were Zoom bombed by pro–Affirmative Action leftists posting videos of pornography too obscene to describe.
You don’t hear about disturbing and sexually graphic disruptions like this at left-leaning events. Conservatives don’t protest like that. If they did, it would undoubtedly make headlines on CNN.
Censorship by Violence
We have a semblance of free speech in this country, but in reality, far too often, conservative or right-leaning events are shut down or disrupted to the point that they can no longer continue. We are allowed to speak when we are among those who support our cause, but when we dare step into territory taken over by the Left (including most of our colleges), we are met with hostility and, in some cases, violence.
In 2017 alone, three right-leaning speakers were aggressively shut down on our college campuses that made the headlines. Charles Murray’s speech at Middlebury College was stopped when protestors pulled fire alarms and shouted him down as he attempted to speak. The event hosts later moved him to a private room so that he could finish. After the speech, when Murray was led to his car, protestors surrounded the vehicle—jumping and pounding on the vehicle and seriously injured a Middlebury professor who was escorting him. Technically, you can call that free speech, but it’s a stretch.
That same year, Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak at the University of California, Berkeley. The “gay homophobe,” according to the Left. Yes, he is gay. And yes, they call him homophobic. No, it doesn’t make sense. On the day that he was set to speak, protestors set fires, set off fireworks, threw rocks at police, and damaged property. It was a full-blown riot. UC Berkeley, once known as the leader in on-campus free speech, was burning because a gay man whose tweets the left didn’t like foolishly thought he had free speech. Silly Milo, what were you thinking? What, did you think this is America or something? Two months later, a similar disruption occurred when Ann Coulter was invited to speak at UC Berkeley.
America’s Free Speech Problem
Whether it be violent disruption, nonstop screaming, threats of violence, or, when they feel lazy, obscene Zoom bombing, the Left is taking advantage of a loophole in civil society: Those who are willing to be violent and obnoxious can force their will on those who are more polite and civil. It’s time to say enough. We can no longer pretend that we are still the land of the free when our first freedom, the right to speak freely, is limited by force and intimidation.