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April 28, 2010

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David Bernstein

It's also embarrassing that the "Social Justice Research Center" invited an unrepentant domestic terrorist to speak to begin with.

AnonForever

Eric, do you feel the same way about this: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/36013193/ ?

Eric Muller

AnonForever, I would feel precisely the same way about the story you link to if the circumstances were the same as those in Wyoming.

As I understand the linked story, the organizers of Coulter's talk cancelled it just before it was scheduled to begin because of the presence of an angry and threatening mob that security could not control.

In Wyoming, university officials cancelled Ayers's talk days before it was scheduled to begin because they were receiving threats of retribution from university donors and encouragement to cancel from Wyoming's governor. (See http://trib.com/news/state-and-regional/article_66361c75-d8a9-5eba-b8e2-50dc24c15202.html)

I view the violence threatened against Ann Coulter as reprehensible. I'd only support the cancellation of such a speech if the police truly believed that there was a risk of violence that they could not say with confidence they could control.

But the two situations are not similar enough to make me feel the same about them. I think the Wyoming situation was a more disturbing example of state-sponsored repression than the Ottawa situation.

AnonForever

Fair enough, and I understand your argument. I wouldn't particularly want either individual speaking at my institution, but I agree it's problematic what happened in Wyoming.

Edward Hasbrouck

I've attended two book talks by Bill Ayers http://billayers.wordpress.com/ at our neighborhood bookstore in San Francisco, including his first public talk after September 11, 2001 (and the publication of "Fugitive Days"), and one of his first talks after the controversy over his relationship to Obama (and the re-issue of "Fugitive Days" with a new postscript).

In both cases, there had been threats against Ayers and threats of disruption of the event, but none materialized. In both cases, he talked about his own process of deciding whether to go through with planned public appearances in spite of those threats.

I think it's important to distinguish between someone's own decision to take risks (such as to speak in the face of threats), or to cancel an appearance because of unwillingness to take those risks (notwithstanding the duty of the police to protect lawful gatherings, especially in the face of terrorist threats intended to intimidate), and the decision of the custodians of a public forum to close it to someone else, such as a controversial speaker, "for that person's protection" but over their objections. The claim that something is being done to someone against their will, even where it is alleged to be for their own protection or otherwise for their own good, is always suspect, and should be subject to the strictest scrutiny and standards of justification.

Bill Ayers is, as one might expect given his stellar scholarly reputation in teacher training and the applied study of education, a fine teacher himself. I look forward to his talk here next week about his latest book, "To Teach".

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