The Heckler’s Veto

By March 31, 2010

by Wendy Kaminer

The Atlantic

Karl Rove enjoys opportunities to speak and be heard that most of us will never approximate, but we should still condemn the behavior of protesters who (TPM reported) disrupted his recent book signing in Beverly Hills.  The protesters were not exercising their First Amendment rights so much as they were effectively restricting the rights of others -- not just Rove but audience members who were interested in hearing from him.  The heckler's veto limits speech, obviously, but people resort to it with the sense of righteousness shared by so many censors, for whom free speech merely means speech they like or, at least, don't strongly dislike.  The hecklers arrested for disrupting a speech by the Israeli Ambassador at the University of California, Irvine last month are now citing their constitutional rights to dissent as a defense to prosecution...