Friday, September 16, 2011

Free speech "expert" defends shutting down Israelis' free speech

From the LA Times:
A UC Irvine professor overstepped his boundaries when he told students that no disruptions were allowed during the Israeli ambassador's visit on campus last year, according to testimony given Wednesday in the so-called Irvine 11 trial in Santa Ana.

UC Irvine professor Rei Terada, an expert on the history and guidelines of free speech, told the Superior Court jury that fellow professor Mark Petracca, the event's emcee, had no authority to set stringent ground rules.

Before bringing Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren to the stage on Feb. 8, 2010, Petracca told the audience that he expected the highest civility.

"This is, after all, not a street corner; it is a university," Petracca said in a video of the event shown in court. "It is not the British Parliament; it is a university. And it is not even a joint session of Congress hearing the president of the United States. It is a university."

Terada said that in her 20-year career she had never seen someone attempt to impose such rules during a politically charged event on a university campus, especially one that had been expected to attract protests.

Orange County Deputy Dist. Atty. Dan Wagner challenged Terada, pointing out that what Petracca said echoed statements from UCI Chancellor Michael Drake. Terada, however, said neither Drake nor Petracca had the authority to set that standard. "They were saying what they wanted to happen," she testified.

The 10 defendants, seven of them UC Irvine students and three from UC Riverside, are charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly conspiring to disrupt Oren's speech and a misdemeanor for allegedly disrupting his speech.
Professor Terada's thesis is that, apparently, anyone has the right to stop anyone else from speaking in the name of "free speech."

Her ideas are very skewed, to say the least.

Allowing Oren to talk is free speech. Supporting people to conspire to stop his speech is against free speech. The Muslim Students Union is free to invite whomever they want to speak, and he or she should be allowed to speak - with any protests properly being outside the door or challenging questions during the Q&A.

In an ironic twist, the first interrupter claimed explicitly that Oren does not have the right to free speech, yelling "Michael Oren, propagating murder is not an expression of free speech."

Yet Terada said that these anti-speech thugs "bring honor to the University of California." (at 1:27 mark.)

Perhaps Terada would cheer if students - and even non-students - barge into her lectures in comparative literature and obscenely insult her for the entire class period.

Their right to free speech is obviously more important than anything she might have to say, according to her own words.

(h/t Silke)