I’ve observed before that the left believes in the freedom of speech only when it is their speech being protected. I call this phenomenon “Free speech for me, but not for thee” because when the left disagrees with someone, they have no problem with denying the other person the chance to speak, or drowning out someone else’s speech with screams when the floor belongs to another speaker.
Let’s look at a few examples caught on camera. First, however a warning: some of these videos have foul language. You have been warned. Now, onward! Earlier this year in Chicago, six people stood up in the middle of the Holy Name Cathedral Easter Mass service, interrupting Cardinal George in the middle of his homily.
While these six people have every right to state their opinions, the middle of Easter services is the wrong time and place to do so. If you believe the government is wrong, then go to a government venue to express your opinion. Don’t pull your stunt in the middle of a church service, interrupting the worship of thousands of people. It is rude, boorish and counter-productive.
Here is another example of interrupting in an inappropriate time and place. I’m sorry that you’ll have to listen to Sheila Jackson Lee for 30 seconds at the beginning of this clip from Bill Maher’s show.
I’m not a fan of Bill Maher, but he makes a great point two minutes into the video: “You are in the audience. Audience comes from the Latin ‘to listen.’” Again, disrupting Bill Maher’s show with your 9/11 “truther” agenda is the wrong time and place, and it ultimately does your cause a disservice.
In the next video, the Recreate68 crowd in Denver gathers around a Fox News camera crew and strong-arms them out of their midst.
Caleb says it well in his report of this scene:
Throughout the event, these men and women exercising their freedom of speech lamented, in dramatic and ominous terms, their lack of free speech. Then in the middle of the event they decided to silence the Fox News crew.
For a peace protest, these guys sure are ready to make war. Not with enemies abroad, but with conservatives at home, real or perceived. Stop war, they cry. Just not theirs, apparently.
Remember that the First Amendment, which specifically mentions your freedom of speech, also safeguards freedom of the press. But if you disagree with the reporters or the network they represent, then their right to report the news is not to be honored. Classy.
OK, so I’ve been picking on the left for their tendency to interrupt at the wrong time and place, but the phenomenon of interrupting someone else’s speech isn’t exclusive to leftist radicals. In the next clip, several survivors of abortion stand up and interrupt a speech by Senator Obama:
I actually support the idea that abortion, as it is commonly practiced in the United States, is an abomination — but disrupting a speech to point this out is rude, and again, it’s the wrong time and place. The people had congregated to listen to Obama, not to the disruptors. This kind of interruption as as boorish and unwelcome as having a loud phone conversation or repeatedly yelling out the address of your MySpace page in a packed movie theater. The people in attendance paid to watch the movie, not to listen to you.
There is an appropriate time and place for actions and words. If you disagree with the government, some official, or a person’s position on an issue, then feel free to speak up! But pick the right venue. If you are going to protest, then do it with class, not crass. Here’s an example of a classy protest — at 1:15 into the following clip, a lone protester stands and holds up his sign. He says nothing — just holds up his sign.
Is he interrupting Sean Penn’s speech? Well, he’s not shouting and preventing Penn from speaking. He’s just holding up his sign. Had the others in the crowd left him alone, he would have continued to stand there quietly. Their actions caused more of a stir than he did. And their actions proved that they didn’t respect his right to free speech, as his sign was torn out of his hands. It’s worthwhile to point out that while he showed some class and respect for the people around him, this protester still picked the wrong place and time to make his point.
It’s easy to stand up for speech with which you agree, but it is much harder to stand up for speech with which you disagree. I dislike protests that disrupt the freedom of others to speak their mind. If you have something to say, then post to a blog, email your friends, call people on the phone, or stand on a street corner and just plain talk. Explain and convert as many people as you can to your position with the excellence of your rhetoric and argument. But as you want people to honor your freedom of speech, you should be prepared to honor theirs.
Don’t scream and shout when other people are talking. Didn’t your mom teach you that?
UPDATE: As I wrote this, a number of Code Pink protesters broke into the Republican National Convention to disrupt the proceedings. They interrupted Senator McCain’s speech and were promptly removed from the area.