Behold, my own personal protesters (above) in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, snapped en route to the parking lot of a lecture hall where I was to give a speech on October 18. My topic? The origins and impact of the Marxist-Bolshevik-Fabian-Socialist-Democrat-Progessive-Alinskyite-micro-aggression-trigger-warning censorship movement against truth and tradition that is opaquely known as "politically correct."
Actually, we're way past ironic, and deep into the danger zone where the ideological and the doctrinaire dominate discourse -- but also make people cower. As I explained nearly ten years ago in my first book, The Death of the Grown-Up, this same "politically correct" movement to silence speech and political discourse generally has made common cause with the Islamic blasphemy law movement to supress all criticism, including factual discussion, of Islam as "hate speech." Under Islamic law, such "hate speech," a.k.a. "blasphemy," is punishable, and, even in our own time, often punished, by death. In Western society, this Red-Green axis increasingly draws strength to become more and more dictatorial, even as sharia expands its control and influence on law and custom in Europe and beyond.
Last week in Chapel Hill, I saw how the mechanism works up-close, when I, too, became a target for suppression.
There were three distinct phases to this campaign by local groups and individuals of the Marxist and/or Islamic variety to shut down my appearance -- as well as appearances by all future speakers hosted by Issues Confronting Our Nation (ICON), the lecture series that sponsored my talk.
The strategy was to demonize and thus delegitimize me as a point of pressure to bear on the management of the venue, Extraordinary Ventures, to convince them to cancel my appearance and sever its standing business relationship with the ICON lecture series forevermore. However outrageous, such thuggish tactics have been successful before, as cancellations of many other events attest (up to and including Milo Yianappolous's appearance this week at the University of Maryland, canceled over a hastily imposed security fee). Hallelujah, the strategy failed in Chapel Hill last week. However, as I will explain, this was not necessarily a zero-sum-game.
Phase 1 began five days before my arrival in Chapel Hill with emails and Facebook messages to the venue management, smearing my work as "hatred," "paranoia," "xenophobia," etc. Previous ICON speakers Roy Beck, Jim Simpson, Mark Krikorian, and John Guandolo were similarly tarred as "racist" and "bigoted" in this same poisonous effort to pressure EV to stop doing business with ICON.
In one email, the protesters said my work contributed to "the anti-Shariah movement throughout the country"; actually, they said I had contributed to the hysteria that led to the anti-Shariah movement throughout the country -- but I'll take the compliment as it was not meant.
Bonus: I was able to put the email to good use in a PowerPoint slide for my lecture on PC.
A battery of groups appeared as signatories on this "Request to cancel Diana West's speech and ICON lecture series":
Abrahamic Initiative on the Middle East;
Black Workers for Justice;
Jewish Voice for Peace - Triangle NC;
Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia;
Muslims for Social Justice; Triangle May Day Unity Coalition;
Triangle SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice);
Witness for Peace - Southeast;
and 14 individuals.
To anyone new to psyops -- such as the management of Extraordinary Ventures, a non-profit whose praiseworthy mission is the employment of autistic people; or the board of ICON, a group of ladies who came together to expand the range of discourse in the Raleigh-Durham area -- it must have seemed as if the workers and jihadists of the world had united, and would soon be in the driveway.
At no time was the protesters' power to menace, to agitate, even to coerce, stronger than in this moment of initial contact.
A series of emails, calls, emergency meetings, and angst circulated among the ICON board members, EV's managers, and also Chapel Hill Police Department, turning what should have been routine preparations for a lecture (for heaven's sake!) into a gratuitously tense episode -- particularly after the GOP headquarters a dozen miles up the road were firebombed over the weekend preceding my event.
Would ICON consider canceling, the board was asked. NO was the answer. The venue would also uphold its contract. Extra security would be posted both inside and outside the auditorium, just in case.The show would go on. And so ended Phase 1.
Phase 2 began when I snapped the picture at the top of this page of that handful of -- dare I say? -- low-energy pickets across the quiet street from Extraordinary Ventures.
Here they are again:
Only Manzoor Cheema, the main organizer of the protest, is making eye contact as we pass (on the end at the right).
A fairly pathetic showing, I must say, on considering the atmosphere of agitation Cheema and Co. ginned up before the event. I am happy to say the talk itself went off without a hitch, thanks to everyone's resolve and much to everyone's delight. (I will post the video as soon as I can.)
Chalk one up for our side: Lee Green, chairman of the NC GOP District/County Chair Association.
Who is Manzoor Cheema? I find him i.d.'d as the founder of Muslims for Social Justice and a founding member of Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia -- by title, certainly, both groups perfect expressions of the Red-Green axis.
A quick flip through these "organizations'" Facebook pages, however, suggests there's not a whole lot going on, at least for something called a "movement."
Between the paltry turnout and the Facebook optics, these protesters began to strike me as a bona fide tiny band of extremists, seeking to impose their totalitarian dictates through audacity, smoke and mirrors.
Something to remember next time the pattern repeats.
Phase 3 remains underway. It began the day after the talk with the appearance of a story about the controversy in the Durham Herald Sun: "Speaker met by protesters decrying `hate speech.' "
On reading this story, I realized that our going forward with the speech perfectly as planned may have been a clear victory for freedom of speech but it was not also a decisive defeat for totalitarianism.
First, know that the Herald Sun reporter did not bother to cover my speech; he did not bother to interview anyone from ICON; he did not bother to seek the opinion of any of the roughly 120 people who came out to hear me, despite the ugly run-up. He quoted four people attacking me as a "bigoted voice," a "hate speaker," etc. He quoted me as well, drawing from a telephone interview earlier in the day in which I had argued for free speech (how controversial!) and recommended he peruse my work at my website for himself (if he did, he quoted nothing).
As I read the story he wrote, I realized that the protesters' message (Phase 1) had gone from private emails and posting on lightly traveled sites into the local Durham newspaper (Phase 3) almost as if Phase 2 -- my protested ICON lecture on "politically correct," where it comes from and what it's doing -- didn't happen; as if over one hundred people didn't come out to hear what I had to say (despite the tinged atmosphere), and afterward engage in a lively Q & A; as if the ladies of ICON hadn't completed another season of successfully presenting points of view rarely heard in the Raleigh-Durham area.
Free speech? It is fragile, indeed, as we see in what I hope is only a temporary wavering in resolve by venue management subject to the Left's relentless browbeating.
From the Herald Sun story:
“This week Extraordinary Ventures finds itself unfortunately caught in the middle of a political discussion. To be clear, [EV] does not in any way, shape or form condone racism or hate messages,” Extraordinary Ventures managing director Paige Morrow said. “At the same time, as a business it cannot unilaterally cancel a contract without significant risk and consequences.
The people of Extraordinary Ventures do apologize and promise to do a better job in the future vetting potential customers."
Apologize? Do a better job in the future? These words echo show trials and other exercises in coercion and are in no way binding.
Suddenly, though, the desultory nature of the actual warm(ish) body protest I witnessed makes more sense. Maybe what I was looking at was not defeat or disinterest; maybe it was just marking time and expectation. Sure, they would have hit the jackpot by shutting down my event, but maybe their real quarry was ICON itself -- not any one speaker, but rather the establishment of a successful and already beloved lecture series to bring conservative voices into Leftist-held territory.
And so we wait to see what happens next -- and, most immediately, for the Herald Sun to publish letters to the editor, one from ICON, one from me.
Support ICON. Support free speech.