On Campus, the Barbarians Are Inside the Gates


Protests against free speech in the name of free speech have become the political flavor du jour. Although the MSM tends to avoid covering these unseemly episodes, anyone with a computer and the interest to go with it can witness online these totalitarian irruptions at universities, colleges and libraries across the continent: Milo Yiannopoulos at Berkeley, Jordan Peterson at Queen's University, Heather Mac Donald at Claremont-McKenna, Gavin McInnes at DePaul, Charles Murray at Middlebury, and so on ad vomitatum. But one gets a different perspective -- obviously more immediate, more appalling -- when one is present at these public displays of doctrinaire belligerence and repressive violence so dear to the Left. One cannot shake a sense of disbelief and moral shock, at least at first.

Just the other day and not for the first time, I experienced this feeling of helpless rage and moral incredulity when my wife Janice Fiamengo was invited by a newly formed undergraduate group, the University of Ottawa Students for Free Speech, to give a lecture titled "Is the University about the Pursuit of Truth or about Protecting Approved Ideologies" at the Ottawa Public Library. When we arrived, we found the doors blocked by a crowd of Antifa offshoots calling themselves, variously, the Revolutionary Student Movement and Ottawa against Fascism, pre-programmed automatons wearing masks, carrying placards and blaring slogans through bullhorns. One of these slogans was paradoxically apt: No Platform for Hate. No Debate.

A scuffle broke out. We were barred from entering by a phalanx of massed bodies. Janice was slandered as a fascist, a hater and a rape apologist. I got into a shoving match to defend my wife from potential harm. The paid security guards merely backed away. The police finally arrived and eventually cleared the entrances, but did so with kid gloves, patiently explaining to the assembled thugs that they had the right to demonstrate but not to prevent entry -- an instance of "soft" or "selective" policing that is now the norm. When I pointed out to the officers that the protesters were in violation of the law -- Bill C-309 which makes it a criminal offense to wear masks in public and the Trespass to Property Act which likewise establishes penalties in the Criminal Code for obstructing access to public venues -- and that immediate arrest of the lawbreakers was in order, I received a non-committal shrug in response. I should say that I do not blame most of these officers; they are acting under strict orders from higher up.

The saga was not yet over. As we were setting up in the designated auditorium and Janice was preparing her talk, the fire alarm was pulled and we were forced to evacuate the building, which put an end to the proceedings. The false alarm, of course, is a standard tactic of disruption and yet another convictable offense. We have experienced this so often that I've suggested we come equipped with ear plugs.

Another thing that strikes me about these protesting hordes -- apart from their proclivity to break the law with customary impunity -- is the monumental ignorance they exhibit. The few protesters I have actually managed to talk to over the years have never read the works of the people they are shutting down. Among an abbreviated list: They know absolutely nothing about Paul Nathanson or Cathy Young, whose public lectures they have disrupted. They have not read a word of David Horowitz, who speaks accompanied by bodyguards. They have not consulted Jordan Peterson's 12 Rules for Life or attended his lectures on Jungian archetypes, Christian theology or English Common Law. They have no familiarity whatsoever with the magisterial oeuvre of Charles Murray. It goes on.