What is your opinion of the Heckler's Veto?

by Terry 5 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • Terry

    In First Amendment law, a heckler's veto is the suppression of speech by the government, because of [the possibility of] a violent reaction by hecklers. It is the government that vetoes the speech, because of the reaction of the heckler. Under the First Amendment, this kind of heckler's veto is unconstitutional.' [ 5 ]

    University of California, Irvine Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky has invoked the concept in an editorial following an incident in which heckling by individual students disrupted a speech by the Israeli ambassador, Chemerinsky explained that broad freedom exists to invite speakers and hold demonstrations, but that once a speaker has begun an invited lecture, “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.” [ 6 ]

    Michigan State University professor of political science William B. Allen has used the phrase verbal terrorism to refer to the same phenomenon, defining it as "calculated assault characterized by loud side-conversations, shouted interruptions, jabbered false facts, threats and personal insults." [ 7 ]

    Danny Ayalon has suggested that the tactic be combated by videotaping the shouters. [ 8 ]

  • Lore

    I'm not sure I understand the definition still.

    So I'm giving a speech about how Pepsi is WAY better than coke.

    Some hecklers yell: "BOOO! Coke is king, pepsi is . . . ecksi! BOOOOOOOO!"

    The police think the hecklers are about to get violent. So the police ask ME to stop speaking about Pepsi? That would be a 'hecklers veto' ?

    Or did I misunderstand?

  • Terry

    Lore: you are correct!

    Fortunately this law is now unconstitutional.

    I think it has resonance with Sexual harassment law, however.

    Under current law if the person you are speaking to is offended by what you said YOU ARE AUTOMATICALLY guilty of harrassment!

    This grants credible fact to one person's OPINION and relegates the free speech of the other party to criminality.

    To me, that is pretty close to a Heckler's Veto.

    Another example, in my opinion, is "playing the race card" whereby as a minority you can declare the words of a speaker as intentionally racist and silence them. The offense is in the mind of the listener automatically. No finding of fact is necessary.

  • NewChapter

    Terry, my experience has not been "automatic" guilt--although I'm sure it happens. Cases I've seen were investigated. Taking offense is not supposed to be enough evidence to convict a person. I know of one case where a person's discussion during a meeting was taken out of context and someone who was NOT at the meeting said they were offended and wanted the person fired. One of the VP's said that would not happen without some investigation. It turned out the speaker had used a term that he grew up with, he used it in proper context, but it COULD sound racist if taken out of context. Case over.


  • Terry

    Before I retired, the bookstore chain I worked for six years had videos about sexual harassment at least 25 or 30 times.

    The video made it really clear no sexual harassment would be tolerated.

    When I asked them to "define" sexual harassment I was told that the Video clearly stated: "If somebody FEELS harassed."

    To me, that is a Heckler's Veto.

    I would think this is equally feasible in racial comments.

    One profound example is the college professor who lost his job for using the term "niggler" to an African American student.

    The Professor protested that "niggling" about grades makes one a "niggler" but, the student claimed it was a disguised form of racisim!

  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    I took a Cherminisky course two years ago. There used to be an area called "fighting speech." You were forbidden to use words that would incide a riot or seriously offend sensibilities. This is a very old area, 1920s. The Witnesses were the big test case. I can't recall the facts off the top of my head. It may have been religion is a snare...." It was tortured in the 1920s. Cherminisky mentioned this in my course. I don't think it was ever officially repudiated. No one believes it is still valid law.

    I am willing to research it if anyone is truly interested. "Fighting speech" should yield the results. Columbia University had a very public dispute only a few years ago. It was a coup for the university to get this speaker. His speech was completely interrupted. As a Columbia grad, I feel strongly that Columbia coddles its thugs. Standing up and asking hard questions is one thing. BLowing whistles, heckling is outrageous. Unlike the University of California, Columbia is private and only need to telephone "911" for the NYPD to be there in five minutes. Repeatedly, my education was messed up because of the thuggery of a few. Attending Columbia is a privilege that people vie for. It is not a right as at a state school.

    Justice Rehnquist made his debut on the East Coast academic circuit with my moot court competition. I ended up in a tiny elevator with him by accident. My friends were the moot court litigants. He was very nervous. People asked vigorous questions from the audience. He never would have appeared if he were going to be heckled. The ACLU made a private appeal to my group. We were begged to behave. They thought it was the conservative's turn after many decades of liberal triumph; that he was brilliant, unlike most conservatives; and exposure to academic settings might soften his stance. He was wonderful in person. Not Satan at all. He was more nervous than I was on the elevator. He had a good time. We had a good time. Heckling would have been the worse thing for all of us.

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