Tancredo Talk

I am interested in what OP folks think about the disruption Tuesday evening at the University of the planned talk by Tom Tancredo, preventing him from speaking. I hope we don't see this as a campus issue isolated from the rest of local progressive politics, because it raises fundamental questions about freedom of speech and liberalism.

To me this seems very simple. Tancredo's views on immigration may be loathsome, but he had a right to speak. I am repeatedly appalled, I have to add, at the lack of appreciation of this basic point among some of my fellow progressives and liberals. Free speech applies even to people who are wrong.

Of course, sometimes things seem simple when one has a blind spot. I understand that there are limits and exceptions to freedom of expression, and in particular I don't believe that people should use vile epithets and aggressive personal insults. This sort of thing is genuine hate speech and a violation of the ground rules of civil discourse. But I am dismayed by how some left-of-center folks are using the phrase "hate speech" to apply to content they want to prohibit, even if it is conveyed politely. And too many people, in my view, go along with Stanley Fish and other post-modernists who argue that, since there are exceptions to free speech, there is no such a thing as free speech.

I also appreciate that free speech as a legal concept, grounded in the First Amendment applied to Congress, and extended to the States through the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, applies only to government and not, for example, protesters. However, there is a more informal principle of freedom of expression that does apply more broadly, and one that I think liberalism should champion.

Finally, I want to express my chagrin about the times I make these points, and someone replies that, in essence, I am supporting people like Tancredo. That reminds me of those who said that protesting the invasion of Iraq amounted to supporting Saddam Hussein. Surely, we can keep clear in our thinking the distinction between upholding the principle of free speech, which protects people with horrible ideas sometimes, and endorsing those people and those ideas.

Here is a link to the News and Observer article from Wednesday.

This link to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education may not work for those without Web access to the Chronicle site. 





Based on everything I know about Tom Tancredo and his publicly-stated views I consider him to be a despicable person.  Nonetheless, I believe that the student activists were wrong to not let him speak, especially given UNC's reputation for promoting free speech.  I do believe that free speech has its limits though and if a person begins advocating violence against other individuals or nations they are treading awfully close to the edge.  I would say that Tancredo's suggestion that the US bomb Mecca and other holy sites in response to any future terrorist attacks is right on (but not quite over yet) that edge.  His other views are equally obnoxious but don't seem to as openly promote violent acts (although they certainly might indirectly support such actions).

I would be interested in knowing exactly which groups did what.  To what extent was SDS involved?  Knowing their track record, I'm convinced that they really don't believe in free speech unless they happen to agree with the speech in question. The former congressman and his unacceptable views got more from this unacceptable behavior than they would have if he was just allowed to have his say and then leave.  Not only does the reputation of UNC get tarnished by all of this, but it also helps Tom Tancredo and the people who support him raise more money and spread their message.

Back in 1969, Mark Rudd was invited by a student group to speak on my campus and was blocked by the administration.  I was not a member of SDS or any particular group but I knew some of the students who were responsible of the invite and they were not happy.   I was a senior at the time and was friends with several members of the faculty.  I went before a faculty committee which included some of those friends and pitched that the administration's position was a violation of free speech and the free exchange of the ideas and asked that this committee invite Mr. Rudd.  I did point out that I was odds with what I knew of Mark Rudd's ideas but he should be entitled to express those ideas. The administration had no authority over who the faculty could invite.  He was invited and ended up staying at my shared apartment.  I still thought his views, especially on violence, were immoral to say the least. The next week the FBI called my parents and asked them about my 'subversive' activities.  The FBI put a real fright into them but had no idea about what they were asking.   I was never contacted.Given all that,  Tancredo had a right to speak on campus unmolested.  The  students had a right to demonstrate but not stop the speech.  If free speech does not protect ideas I or anyone else finds insulting or abhorrent then there is no such thing as free speach and that term has no meaning.

Hate Speech vs. Free Speech.

 Universities particularly seem to have this issue crop up regularly  every few months under different guises, but it always comes down to the same thing. It's how one frames the issue (in some ways akin to "the right to bear arms"). Many parts of the world do not frame the issue of citizens owning weapons in this manner. Similarly, it's time that popular culture, the media (always last to change its narrative) and universities started to problematize the idea of free speech.

Not all speech is (defamy, libel, anyone?) and should be free, specifically in public spaces. 


A feeling I get after reading dozens of articles and accounts is that SDS disrupted both the demonstration and the speech, manipulating everything. Looking at the track record of the group from the 1960s with the same name, a violent demonstration was an end in itself. If it discredited Carolina, perhaps they did not care a whit.  If a group of 5 attached itself to a large peaceful demonstration by 145, it made it seem like there was a violent demonstration by 150.I've been teargassed in demonstrations where I was part of the 145.Next up is a speech by former Virginia Congressman Virgil Goode sposored by the same group. My spouse grew up in his State Senate and Congressional distruct Since she inherited several pieces of property up in the SW Virginia mtns I've been following Goode's career for a long time through the local weekly paper. He's a stupid version of Tancredo.

Even in  Minneapolis ...http://news.yahoo.com/s/politico/21380As a person with Right-oriented political views, I can assure anyone who asks me that today's climate for expression is ... literally dangerous.  Reasoned debate isn't just repressed, it's wholly stifled.  And that's not even on a college campus, where threatening activism is planned in advance and coordinated by faculty.  The forces of the violent Left are more pervasive today than they were in the late 1960s.Polite discourse is not even possible amongst otherwise reasonable people.  For example, just in this thread we see a former US Congressman being described as 'despicable,'  having "unacceptable views" and even having a peer protege on the spectrum of stupidity.  Whither decorum?If I expressed my opinion here about Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Barney Frank, and so forth, using similar language, I'd be dismissed (and perhaps edited away) as some kind of lunatic wingnut. Why is inciteful language OK ... sometimes ... but only from some people and only about certain others?It's something to think about.

"For example, just in this thread we see a former US Congressman being described as 'despicable,' "Inventor61,In my OP I made it clear that it was MY OPINION that Tom Tancredo was despicable.  I would hope, and it seems from your post, that you agree I have a right to express my opinions.  Despicable is a strong word, and one that I don't use often - or lightly.  But I have no respect whatsoever for someone who advocates bombing other nations, other peoples and other religions' holy sites in blind retaliation.  The former Congressman is entitled to speak his views, however twisted I or someone else might think those views to be.  But he is not automatically entitled to my respect nor is he entitled to incite violence against other people.  If you want to call me despicable for expressing my very strong negative opinion of the former Congressman feel free to do so.  You are entitled. 

Our common language gifts us with a wide panoply of words with which to express a deep range of meaning.  The word 'despicable' (meaning worthy of despise) is rather far down the 'line' on the meaning-scale for me to use against someone I don't know and who hasn't done anything to hurt me.Mr. Tancredo's 'idea' to attack Mecca was a bombastic figure of speech, when you consider it in the context the idea was presented.  Sadly, honest and earnest discussion of this rhetoric is stymied by (a) people not listening to ideas they find initially abhorrent and (b) others repeating only sound bites that suit their fact-twisting agenda.As a practicing Roman Catholic, I know how I'd recoil in horror if someone suggested bombing the Vatican.  It is legitimately and similarly observed that threatening the only tangible thing those practicing radical Islam hold truly sacred could be employed as a deterrent against terrorist use of nuclear devices.  Even the most militant Wahabi would think twice if he/she knew that destroying an American city would be met with such a retaliation.  This 'mutual assured destruction' policy worked for years against the Soviets, and I believe that conflict was resolved without any but proxy battles being fought.Now, you may think that such talk is horrible.  It is.  It's literally a failure of our species to even get to a point where such thoughts are expressed.  Mr. Tancredo was invoking the polemic to make a strong point and get it heard above the din.  (It worked.)  Whether we like it or not, we live in a world where the spectre of a global terrorist 'trigger event' is not only possible but some would say likely.  I believe it was Oppenheimer, in the New Mexico desert, who predicted this first:  "I am become death, the destroyer of worlds" 64 years ago.  Back to my point:  I don't escalate the war of words so quickly as you do because it leads me to have to select the next size verbal ammunition sooner.  I do not -- indeed, cannot -- despise you, nor do I think others should, simply because you strongly disagree with a lifted sound bite from some Colorado ex-Congressman's earnest expression of concern for the safety of his fellow citizens.  I reserve 'despicable' in public fora for much more acute transgressions.

I don't object to the word despicable but I would prefer to see it applied to someone's ideas/positions rather to the person.

Terri,Normally I would restrict my use of that word to someone's ideas/positions but, in all honesty, I'm tired of people, particularly people in public positions, so casually using what I would call "hate language".  Whether Mr. Tancredo  was seriously advocating bombing Mecca or not is not the issue.  As a person in the public spotlight he might very well incite someone else to carry out such an act. To me hate language is despicable and I view suggesting acts of violence directed toward others or even carefully-crafted language supporting or condoning such acts as hate language.  And a person who uses such despicable language and then neither apologizes for it nor denounces its message, is therefore, in my mind, despicable.  If my choice of words offends some I apologize for doing so, but I don't apologize for my position.  I'm tired of the casual way that certain members of society, often ones in the public spotlight or political process, are willing to promote, condone, or suggest violence directed toward others.  For having such supposedly well-developed brains we humans can act pretty stupid at times.

All of the posts so far have denounced SDS and their allied groups and I'll add myself to the chorus, so your point seems a bit whiny. You want free speech for Tancredo and so do I, but I also want free speech for those who call him "despicable." That is not "inciteful language."  And I don't think Ruby would edit you away as you say if you want to say a liberal Dem is despicable.  

"The forces of the violent Left are more pervasive today than they were in the late 1960s."This claim seems doubtful to me."As a person with Right-oriented political views, I can assure anyone who asks me that today's climate for expression is ... literally dangerous."You are going to be physically attacked if you express your opinion about "Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Barney Frank, and so forth"?

while in a restaurant bemoaning the goings-on in Washington, a group from an adjacent table (having overheard the private conversation) approached as a group threat, with verbal abuse and a thinly-veiled attempt at physical intimidation.  I have definitely learned to keep my mouth shut except in truly private situations, or on-line, where the relative anonymity and physical separation provides some safety factor.I have frequently in my life felt sympathetic to gay friends because this is the same sort of insidiously intimidating environment they frequently encounter.  Now, it's ever more tangible an experience to me.I understand that my claim seems doubtful to you, despite the two recent examples of 'situations' on the UNC campus and at Sen. Coleman's house in Minnesota.  If I was to go to the post office downtown or on campus and marched around with a placard stating my views, I *guarantee* I would be accosted - at the very least.

Any fool could have predicted that the Tancredo speech was an event ripe for conflict.  For that reason one can fault many of those involved regardless of their stand on immigration - for decisions ranging from using too small a room, to failing to recognize that escalating protest best serves those whose views you detest, to acting and reacting disproportionately.In this case, it also provided far too facile an excuse to resume broadbrushing academe as the breeding ground of domestic terrorism and liberals as hypocritical emperors who preach freedom but are nakedly intolerant. Doing so is a form of doublethink that both ignores recent political history on the other end of the spectrum and does a great disservice to all but the few who made the news.
I commend and recommend Paul Cuadros's front-page piece in Sunday's CH News:  http://www.chapelhillnews.com/front/story/48620.html  

The idea that free speech is under attack in American colleges and universities has taken root for the simple reason that speech suppression is very real and disturbingly common.  In fact, it is so common that the recent stupidity at UNC did not shock me, it merely revealed that UNC is subject to the same problems that afflict other elite institutions.

It is also not so far fetched to see this phenomenon as having a more liberal than conservative flavor to it.  The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a non-partisan ACLU-like outfit that specializes in First Amendment rights for students and faculty, has to spend a disproportionate amount of its time combatting suppression of conservative speech.  Sadly, they are very busy people.

Hello all,

Wednesday's coverage of the student protest of the YWC began with a misleading quote from me, Jason Bowers. I wanted to make it clear that I was interviewed *before* any of the speakers (or rather,
people that would have been speakers) arrived. I in no way endorse the violent behavior of the few students whose excessive zeal has now unfortunately damaged the UNC community. Had I known of violent behavior--including the attempt to silence Tom Tancredo by holding a banner in front of his face and the breaking of a window--I would not have been so quick to announce my participation.

In addition, the following should also be made clear, since there is apparently some misunderstanding: in claiming that I represented UNC, I was of NOT claiming to be an official delegate of the school, nor was I claiming that everyone at UNC agrees with me.(Of course not!) You'd think this would be obvious, but unfortunately several emails to the effect of "how dare you claim to represent me, John Smith, a sophomore biology major?!" have been sent my direction. I am part of the UNC student faculty, and, as such,
am part of the community. I have a right to represent myself as such, and doing so does not mean that I voice any opinions other than my own.

Summarily, I wish to make it clear that my quote is neither indicative of any support of the Wednesday's violence, nor is it intended as a declaration of how the community as a whole feels.

I think that part of the genesis of all this kind of stuff is self-segregation with regards to hearing different opinions.  People like to be with people that agree with them so they get their views reinforced.  While the advent of the Internet is good in many ways, one way it's bad is that having many different voices speaking allows a person to just listen to the one opinion that agrees with their own. You see this kind of stuff in people all over the place and it's scary because it leads to people becoming immune to reason.  It's akin to fundamentlist religion.  You become so certain of your own opinion that not only are other people wrong, they're unworthy of even having the chance to be proven wrong.  It's a dehumanization of sorts.  And for that reason I find it even more scary when it comes from people speaking in the name of tolerating others.  Intolerance in the name of tolerance.  Someone just mentioned doublespeak  Well that is it.  And here is some more doublespeak: "No one is illegal."  That's what the banner said that the "protestors" (and calling them that does a disservice to protestors IMO) unfurled as they stopped Tancredo.  Of course some people are illegal.  Who should or shouldn't be illegal and what we should do about it is the question.  But no.  Let's ignore reality and just say "No one is illegal."  Doublespeak.   I hear that the group that brought in Tacredo is bring in someone else tomorrow so get ready for Round 2 of the Holy Wars.  Literally no amount of stupidity on either side would surprise me.

Someone's actions may be illegal, but that doesn't make the person illegal - Tancredo's wishes notwithstanding.

Words are important.  The person is not illegal.The person is a criminal.

I have been told that people in violation of immigration laws are not actually criminals because it is a civil matter, not a criminal matter. I understand the difference between criminal and civil law, but I don't see how a violation of immigration law would not be a criminal matter. Is there someone reading this who is a lawyer or other professional, and an expert in these matters, who can clear this up?James Coley

in this Associated Press article:http://apnews.myway.com/article/20090425/D97P6KT81.htmlFrom the article:"Earlier this week, [Homeland Security Secretary Janet] Napolitano drew criticism for flubbing an explanation of federal law prohibiting people without proper documents from crossing
U.S. borders into the country.
In an interview with CNN, Napolitano, whose career has included stints
as a U.S. attorney and attorney general and governor of Arizona, said:
"Crossing the border is not a crime per se. It is civil."
While crossing the border illegally is a crime, most illegal immigrants
caught in the United States face only civil penalties and deportation.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., characterized Napolitano's statements as
one of the most "baffling" he has ever heard from a senior government
"It is breathtaking that a Cabinet secretary, bestowed by the public
with the responsibility to protect our nation's borders, could be
ignorant of the indisputable fact that it is a violation of the
criminal code to enter our country illegally," Sessions said." 

Although some undocumented immigrants enter the United States lawfully and simply remain here.  Does that make them criminals?

While many "undocumented" immigrants are here legally under USC8 Section 1204, the bulk of them are also eligible for deportation under Section 1227(a).Title 8 laws are subject to broad interpretation, and elements of these laws often contradict each other.  (No wonder we have so many lawyers.)No matter what side of the issue one is on, it's clear that our immigration laws need (1) reform and (2) enforcement. I don't see enough action taking place in either reform or enforcement.  Instead, we fiddle, argue, and watch the status quo devolve, with social and economic costs that rise exponentially.I believe that ex-Rep. Tancredo's speech (had he been allowed to deliver it) would have essentially said we should not, as a society of laws, offer full-citizen benefits to persons who, if existing laws were enforced, would otherwise be eligible for deportation.  It's sad that somebody so divisive was selected as the messenger of such an obvious outpouring of common sense.  It's sad that we even need somebody to promulgate such common sense, as if so many in our society are bereft of it.  It is equally sad that persons bearing such common-sense messages have been so vilified by political opponents that the messengers themselves become divisive.


"our immigration laws need (1) reform and (2) enforcement." I agree with the need for reform and enforcement, but Tancredo is not preaching common sense.  He wants to build a couple thousand mile long wall along our border.  That is just a waste of money - as is trying to enforce the current immigration laws.  If we reformed our laws to allow for immigration to happen on a scale that would match the US economy's need for workers, then we would have a system that would be far easier to enforce.As for whether you forgive people who are in violation of the present law, I guess it raises lots of both practical and philosphical questions.  I see your point, Steve, but on the other hand there are lots of undocumented people in America who are productive members of our society.  I don't think it makes a lot of sense to say that they should automatically be kicked out without considering why they came, what they have done since they got here etc.Regardless of who crossed the line (behavior-wise), the protest was clearly a failure.  Instead of causing a debate about immigration and Youth for White Culture, the incident has caused a debate about protest tactics and SDS.  Editorialists say the situation reflects poorly on SDS; SDS says that it reflects poorly on UNC Campus Police.  Either way, the protest was a failure because it did not increase public awareness of the issue the protestors were seeking to highlight.Oh.  And one more thing.  Would everyone stop lecturing SDS about the First Amendment.  This does not really have anything to do with the First Amendment.  The First Amendment says "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech . . . "  It regulates government action ONLY (actually the entire Constitution does not regulate private action in any way, except by prohibitting slavery).  The protestors interfered with Tancredo's speech for sure, but they are not the government.Okay.  That ought get just about everyone mad at me, so I think I'll leave it there.

Mark wrote "actually the entire Constitution does not regulate private action in any way, except by prohibiting slavery."What about the interstate commerce clause? Doesn't that regulate private action? Wasn't that the basis for the civil rights legislation prohibiting owners of private businesses, such as restaurants, from refusing customers based on their race?James Coley

Congress has passed many laws that regulate private actions pursuant to powers directly or indirectly granted to Congress by the Constitution, but the Constitution itself doesn't directly regulate private actions - except that the 13th Amendment outlaws slavery.

except from 1919 to 1933 during the great national experiment -- prohibition

Yes, Mark. I see your point. I should have thought about the obvious distinction between regulation and granting regulative powers. I take it you accept the point that prohibition was a temporary exception to your claim. But back to the main topic of the thread. You are also right to call people on lecturing the SDS and other private actors about the First Amendment per se. I tried to anticipate related points in the fourth paragraph of my original post, which started this thread.I expect you agree that, in addition to the legal concept grounded in the First Amendment, there is a more informal principle of freedom of expression that does apply more broadly, and one that liberalism should champion. Isn't it a relatively minor fault for someone to use the First Amendment to reference this more informal principle?James Coley

Yes.  Yes.  And yes.

Doublethink is when you forget(deny) something happened and then forget(deny) that you did. Doublespeak is the near neighbor of doubletalk - it's calling a guided missile a "Peacemaker," or calling a holding-pen for dissidents a "Free Speech Zone," or - indeed - calling a person without documentation an illegal human being, for the sake of stirring up irrational responses. Yes, we all prefer to be in the company of like-minded people and be comforted when they say things we already believe. It takes a certain amount of integrity and even courage to extend ourselves outside that group, but it serves no purpose other than widening the divides to condemn an entire population for the ill-advised actions of a high-profile few. Unseemly readiness to see the same conflict repeated as continuing proof of hypocritical intolerance is, itself, hypocritical.

Recently observed on the UNC campus:

"When Fascists Visit S*** Gets Wild" is pretty much equivalent to "If I dislike someones opinion I can do anything I want (i.e., make things get wild) to prevent them from speaking," which ironically is facism itself.  I wonder if these are the same people that spray painted "Bush" below the word "Stop" on the Stop sign of the street where I live.  Sure, it's public property paid for by everybody and that serves the purpose of helping people travel safely, but I have an opinion and therefore it's okay for me to express it in any manner I choose.  It's that kind of attitude that is the real danger and you see it at many points across the political spectrum.  I worry much less about any particular left or right policy being enacted than I do about the spread of intolerance of other opinions.

Jose says: "I wonder if these are the same people that spray painted "Bush" below the word "Stop" on the Stop sign of the street where I live."

My brother when a Carolina undergrad in the late 70s reportedly spraypainted "DISCO" below the word "STOP" on a sign on East Rosemary Street.

After several miles of stop-and-go highway construction on one of the interstates (don't remember which), the usual "End Construction" sign had been embellished by the spray-painted word: "When?"    I guess impatient fascists get out of hand re: traffic, too.

Whenever I see an "End Road Work" sign I think of it as a protest sign I might have posted.James Coley

Whenever I saw signs that said "Begin Project" I thought it had something to do with former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.

Believe it or not, I've had the same thought. And I thought I was the only one.James Coley

http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/06/tancredo-aide-pleads-guilty-to-karate-chopping-pedestrian-calling-her-nigger.php?ref=fpblgThat's Marcus Epstein, the Executive Director of Tancredo's Political Action Committe, which, without the slightest hint of irony, is named Team America.  According to the prosecutor, Epstein "uttered, 'Nigger,' as he delivered a karate chop to Ms. [REDACTED]’s head."Mind you, Epstein is the CURRENT Executive Director of Team America PAC, not former.  But Tancredo is worried that Judge Sotomayor is a "racist."

        Here's the website for Tancredo's PAC.James Coley

Tragically, this is their actual website:http://www.teamamericapac.org/


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