Traveling to three universities this past week, I was ready with a flip camera: I had planned to film for Jihad Watch Video the most rabid displays of Peace and Tolerance from the learned young men and women who objected to my presence on their campuses. However, I came up empty: after being shrieked at by a harridan and lectured by a self-righteous liar at Penn State (whilst I did not, alas, think to turn on the camera), the crowds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee were generally quiet, and while there were hostile questioners (including a handful who in their courtesy insisted on talking over my answers to their questions), my talks were not disrupted.
This does not, however, turn out to result from a newfound respect for freedom of speech and civil discourse. Rather, it is just a change of tactics, akin to the shift represented by the movement from the riots over the cartoons of Muhammad to the UN anti-free speech initiatives after the film Fitna. It appears to be a decision to pursue the stealth jihad rather than open confrontation. In this case, you can call it the YouTube Effect. The jihadists, their allies, and their dupes have realized how bad they look when they try to intimidate and shout down anti-jihadists. Evidence comes from an email circulated this week by the Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of California at Berkeley:
Dear SJP members,
In the next few weeks, other campus organizations will be sponsoring vitriolic anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian speakers…
While we are deeply offended by the racist logic and arguments that these speakers present, we would like to emphasize that disruptions are not a productive use of time. If you feel pressed to attend one of these events, please do so, but do so in a manner that is respectful of student organizers who have spent their time putting these events together, and also other audience members who do want to hear the speakers.
If the fact that these people are so blatant with their racism makes you angry, then you have every right to feel that way, but consider writing an op-ed, Facebook note, blog post, starting a Facebook group, or coming to the next SJP meeting instead, as a constructive alternative. The time to make opposing arguments is during question and answer sessions, and by setting up alternative events or passing out flyers– not by creating loud disruptions or preventing the speakers from talking.
Thanks to those who attended our successful event tonight with Professors Norman Finkelstein and John Dugard. During the event, members of another student organization loudly and rudely disrupted the speakers and began to yell obscenities at them. You can see the video here: <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNkFwb4MS6Q>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNkFwb4MS6Q
The video speaks for itself, but let it also serve as a reminder to all of us in our activism: before you do anything, imagine what it might feel like to see yourself doing it on YouTube first. If it still seems like a good idea, go for it. But if you’re going to look like a moron, try not to.
They may also have figured out that when they act like fascist thugs, their behavior becomes national news — David Horowitz was on FoxNews last year talking about the treatment he received at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee — but when they behave in a reasonably civilized manner, the anti-jihad message doesn’t get on Fox or anywhere else beyond the people who were in the hall. Nevertheless, this strategy has a downside: the people who are present can see for themselves that their slander and propaganda is…slander and propaganda. Witness these comments by one student who attended my talk in Madison and sharply disagrees with me:
I went with a feeling of apprehension and expectations of a repetition of last year’s charade during David Horowitz’s lecture. And I have to admit I was wrong. Spencer was very respectful in his speech, he laid out his case without attacking anyone, and he even thanked the audience for not interrupting his speech. I personally had a brief exchange with him during the Q-and-A session which was very calm and respectful. And for that, I thank him.
And here is another from a student in Milwaukee:
[…] I would like to tell you that just as our university did not live up to the rumors you had heard, you did not live up to your reputation of being a crazy, muslim-hater. I was very nervous to hear you speak, and was afraid that I would be hearing more of the same hate. All of your points were well-spoken, well-researched, and quite frankly I do not see the controversy of it. […] I think that what you are doing is very great, you are drawing attention to a problem in the face of opposition and I hope to do the same with my life. I would like to say that yesterday before the lecture I expected you to be more of the same, but I have to say that you are the closest thing I’ve found to someone I can call a role-model. Thank you for influencing me, you will be someone that I will look up to for a long time to come.
That’s the beauty of free speech. Just as I allow open comments at this website, so that people can sift through the evidence and make their own judgments, so at these talks, people of good will inevitably will see the truth — which is just what the jihadists and their allies do not want.
Thus as long as we can protect the freedom of speech, the jihadists and Islamic supremacists will lose. They are in a lose-lose situation: if they shout me down, they’re exposed as the fascists they are. But if they let me speak, people will begin to see through them. The truth will come out either way.