Picture 2

Picture 2

Mar 8, 2016

How Students Can Beat Safe Spacers and BDS Bigots

The Melissa Click incident reminds me of a 1985 incident at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.   I want to tell you this story because conservative students used radical tactics to get even with a Maxist professor who incited a riot to prevent a speech.    I think conservative students today could use the same tactics to make an entire campus into an unsafe space which would require a trigger warning at every entrance. It's also a fairly good answer for the BDS crowd at Columbia, who are concealing antisemitism behind a very thin veil of pro-Palestinian rhetoric.  The pattern of all these groups is hostility to any speech they disagree with.  You have to fight back to preserve free speech from the strong arm methods these groups use with tacit support from campus authorities.

I had graduated years before, but some of my friends at Northwestern were members of a conservative students group.   In 1985, they invited Nicaraguan Contra leader Adolfo Calero to speak on campus.   (The Contras were a guerrilla resistance fighting the communist government of Nicaragua.)  I warned them to be ready for trouble because in my undergraduate days I remembered that the South Vietnamese ambassador was physically thrown off the stage at the University of Illinois, Champaign.   My student friends said things had changed.   They hadn't.

Marxist English Professor Barbara Foley organized a riot to prevent Calero from speaking.   She seized the podium and announced that Calero had no right to speak there.   Somebody threw red liquid on the suits of Calero and the local Cuban and Central American emigre businessmen who had organized Calero's Chicago visit.   The mob was physically threatening.   The conservative students had one car which they had driven to the curb nearest the building to manage Calero's escape from the mob.   However, they didn't have room for everybody.  They asked me if I could take one Nicaraguan doctor, who clearly didn't like my full beard and USAF raincoat.   (He'd never met me, and didn't know I was a Vietnam Era USAF veteran.)  My car was two blocks away.   I told him we would walk away slowly and not look back.   The mob chased the car with Calero and never even looked at us.

We got even later.   Someone privately funded over a thousand cheap bumper stickers that said "Fire Foley! Expel Red Rioters." These were plastered all over campus, and they were not the easy to remove kind of bumper stickers.   Foley was denied tenure and got fired.   The campus newspaper headline read "Red Rioter Fired."  We used protester tactics against the protesters, and it worked.
The same guerrilla tactics can work today to stop politically correct campus mobs incited by radical professors.  It’s time to take advantage of the student radicals’ weaknesses, which they have carefully pointed out to us.  They can’t stand exposure to opposing arguments.   Bumper stickers are cheap and can be furtively stuck on light poles, utility boxes and bathroom stalls very quickly.  It only takes a few students and a thousand bumper stickers to have a very visible impact all across an entire campus.  You can make campus an “unsafe space” by plastering it with conservative slogans.  It’s not like leftist groups haven’t been plastering the campus for years with their slogans.  Use their tactics against them.  How about “Free Speech Means No Safe Spaces” for the bumper stickers.  Make sure they are bright red or day glow orange, so they really can’t be missed.

What the bumper stickers did, and could do again, was to give the college administration a vision of opposition from the conservative side that might escalate. Today, you might consider it a reverse broken windows policing strategy. We were breaking the rules in a minor way by plastering bumper stickers everywhere they weren't supposed to be. But the question that the NU provost had to ponder was how far were conservative students willing to go. If there's only one side, campus authorities have an easy choice. They appease the loud left wing protesters. But if there are two sides, campus authorities have to think about it a little harder. The fair minded ones can make a better argument that inciting a riot is not a way to exercise academic freedom if there's a risk both sides will escalate.  Politics ain't beanbag, and everybody knows it. 

Here are some links to how Foley's friends saw it.

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