By Joe Badalamenti
It’s been over four months since the spike in political tensions on campus here at Binghamton University. In November, a mob of students led a coordinated protest against a table of College Republicans and TPUSA members. Several days later this group took over a planned speaking event hosted by College Republicans in which famous economist Arthur Laffer was planned to speak about economic theory and how tariffs would affect American workers. While tensions have decreased since this period, it is embarrassing to see the exchange of ideas lose out to mob rule at this institution of study. However, this was not a lone incident, but part of a trend of aggressive behavior throughout the country. A similar event occurred recently at Ohio University, in an even more violent and dangerous manner.
On February 17th, a mob formed at Ohio University following the appearance of conservative activist Kaitlin Bennett. A police report stated that, while there was no violence, the mob did hurl insults in order to publicly harass Bennett. Video footage contradicts this, showing a student throwing water at her.
Kaitlin Bennett is a public figure known for her viral stunts and her conservitive viewpoints. She first gained popularity after taking photos of herself carrying an AR-10 on campus at Kent State shortly after her graduation. Bennett also happened to be the President of the Kent State TPUSA chapter. Much of the controversy surrounding Bennett comes from her conservative ideas on topics such as gun rights, abortion, and transgender rights.
Bennett’s purpose for being at the university was to simply discuss American civics with students. However, upon arrival, Bennett was denied the opportunity to speak by the mob of students. While students do have the right to protest as part of free speech, this does not extend to preventing others from exercising their rights. This concept is known as the heckler’s veto. In addition, Ohio University is a public university, meaning property rights can’t be used in order to prevent a speaker or activist.
The reason why this is such a dangerous trend is self-evident. Firstly, it encourages mob mentality among students. This means that students will be expected to conform to whatever the mob deems just. The problem here is that these mobs have no moral constraints, meaning yelling, insults, and, at worst violence, can become justified. While neither of the incidents mentioned have resulted in excessive physical violence, the possibility stands so long as their morals are flexible. In addition, this conformity prevents the development of individualism. This is important because with diversity of thought comes true learning. Without opposing opinions you’re just following whatever the authority tells you, which is the antithetical to the purpose of liberal arts. Some may claim that this can be used to justify the spread of racist and bigoted ideas. However, these hateful ideas can be easily beaten through either moral and ethical standards, or fact-based argumentation. In sum, this trend of heckling and silencing through mob rule is harmful to academic institutions as it leads to an intellectual slavery. It is for these reasons why freedom of speech must be protected now more than ever.