Will Columbia Protesters Achieve Their Goals?


Category:  News & Politics

Via:  krishna  •  3 weeks ago  •  10 comments

By:    Stephen L. Carter

Will Columbia Protesters Achieve Their Goals?
The current wave of protests, whatever their original motivations, have become not only disruptive but, for many Jewish students, frightening.

Photo credit: Heartfelt but ineffective.  Photographer: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

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S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

I fear that the current round of campus protests is wearing out its welcome. This isn’t a conclusion I reach lightly. In my increasingly distant youth, I was a sometime protester myself, marching and chanting alongside classmates, and I tend to take vicarious pleasure in student activism. But in my day, we recognized the moment to stop. Whereas the current wave of protests, whatever their original motivations, have become not only disruptive but, for many Jewish students, frightening..

I’m a near-absolutist when it comes to free speech, but disruption is not a speech issue. I am not a fan of arresting students, but there’s a difference between the right to express an opinion and the right to occupy a plaza or chant loud enough to interfere with studying, or classroom instruction, or, for that matter, the simple freedom to go about the campus in peace.

I’m not saying that there’s never justification for being disruptive; I’m only saying that disruption isn’t speech. In traditional protest theory, a key reason for blocking streets and in other ways making everyday life difficult is precisely to be arrested. The idea is that once a skeptical world sees that the courage of your convictions is sufficient to lead you to jail, some of the bystanders might cease standing by and become active supporters of the cause.

The problem is that too often, using such tactics has shifted the debate to the legitimacy of particular forms of protest. The underlying cause has gotten  lost in a conversation about process . Process matters; but substance is what draws demonstrators into the streets.

One sees this evolution in the public conversation since universities have begun clearing away protest encampments. Suddenly, everybody wants to talk about when protest crosses the line between protected speech and unprotected conduct. But from the viewpoint of the committed protester, an argument over the limits of free speech is a distraction from the intended argument over the Gaza war.

In the old days — if I may call them such — the point of nonviolent protest was to change public opinion by provoking a reaction through which authority would show its true repressive face.   This approach worked . It wasn’t the civil rights marches as such that aroused the conscience of a nation; what put an end to the South’s pretense of racial harmony was the ensuing fire hoses, police dogs, and murders. For those protests to be effective, it had to be the authorities, not the protesters, who engaged in intimidation.


jrDiscussion - desc
Professor Expert
1  seeder  Krishna    3 weeks ago

The fact that demonstrations spread does not imply that activists will achieve their goals. So far, there’s little evidence that the Gaza protests or the efforts by universities to restore order are building support for the cause.

We shouldn’t be surprised. With rare exception, the effect of protest on public opinion   is zero . This observation is hardly new. Back in the 1970s, the philosopher Richard B. Gregg, an advocate of nonviolence, mused on   why campus antiwar protests met with so little success :

Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
1.1  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Krishna @1    3 weeks ago

I think I agree somewhat with the author's theory that it is the reaction to the protest that has an effect.  It made me think that perhaps the killing of a student at Kent State University during the demonstrations against the Vietnam War that may have been more effective towards ending it than the demonstrations were.  However, in this case, I do hope that the universities do not "give in" in ANY way to the students' demands.  To me it is kind of upside down for a university to be run by the students.  Personally, I'd like to see the pro-Hamas demonstrators who refuse to do what the universities demand of them suspended from their classes - fuck free speech in this situation.  If employees can get fired for refusing to follow their boss' instructions, why can't students get expelled for not following their school administration's requirements?

Professor Expert
2  seeder  Krishna    3 weeks ago

“Opportunities for dialogue become further limited as protestors, at moments of confrontation reduce their verbalization to slogans, epithets, and chants, and rely upon obscene gestures and sheer body force to make their point.”

The relatively undisciplined nature of the campus protests over Gaza suggests a genuine belief on the part of the protesters that if they keep at it, something will change. But what changes may not quite what they expect. If, as some observers think likely, demonstrators at some schools choose to disrupt commencement ceremonies, one suspects that opinion will turn sharply against them.

Professor Expert
3  seeder  Krishna    3 weeks ago

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in self-expression for its own sake, even when nobody’s mind is going to be changed; and I quite understand the heartfelt need at times to shout one’s agony to an uncaring world. But I also believe in the values that make the campus different from other institutions, and, in particular, the commitments to thoughtful colleagueship and reasoned dialogue. That’s why, on campus, the best place to argue remains the classroom.

Sparty On
Professor Principal
4  Sparty On    3 weeks ago


Professor Guide
5  Drakkonis    3 weeks ago
Will Columbia Protesters Achieve Their Goals?

Oh, man, I really hope not. I really don't want to see a bunch of children with massive entitlement issues get rewarded for this nonsense. 

Freshman Silent
6  Tschad     3 weeks ago

Watching slobby angry entitled little white kids chanting from the river to the sea is wild.  Smells like the same bunch we see at every democratsocialist jerkfest but with table clothes on their heads. 

I'd personally slap the shit out of my kids if they were larping as Nazis on campus.

Right Down the Center
Senior Guide
7  Right Down the Center    3 weeks ago

If their goal is to get suspended and find it hard to get a job then some are well on their way to achieving that goal.

Jeremy Retired in NC
Professor Expert
8  Jeremy Retired in NC    3 weeks ago

I've seen articles interviewing these "protestors" where they admit they have absolutely no idea what they are supposed to be taking a stand about.

Freshman Silent
9  Becoming    3 weeks ago
The more this unfolds, the more I like Senator Fetterman. Who saw this coming?  Maybe the senate dress code should require hoodies.

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