Phantasies and Alternate Dimensions (feline_phantasy) wrote,
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The Shocking Ways that Women's Free Speech Is Under Attack

Legally speaking, “you can heckle a speaker but you can’t drown them out,” explains Wendy Kaminer, a lawyer, author and free speech advocate. Drowning out speakers or preventing them from speaking by threatening to create a violent reprisal is called “the Heckler’s Veto.” Considering the 2010 case of University of California students arrested for trying to prevent Karl Rove from speaking at a book-signing, Kaminer writes for the Atlantic that “protestors were not exercising their First Amendment rights so much as they were effectively restricting the rights of others.” Because they sought to use their heckler’s veto to silence a speaker, the speech of the students was no longer protected as free by the First Amendment.

The Heckler’s Veto is an ongoing concern for free speech advocates because it’s a live-action attempt to curtail the free speech of a public speaker – one that’s used time after time, year after year. The New Left Counter-Inaugural at which women speakers were heckled and drowned out, for example, took place in 1969. Rebecca Meredith’s experience with an attempted heckler’s veto (she and her partner went on to finish their debate) was in 2013.

Forty-four years. What’s changed?

Shortly after the Glasgow debate, Meredith received a text alerting her that “’Lad’ websites and male chat forums had posted pictures of me from news sites and discussed how best to violently rape or sexually assault me.” Comment after comment, she writes, discussed “whether it would be preferable to rape me using a knife, or to keep me as a sex slave.”

What’s changed in the last 40 years, then, is that now some men can heckle and drown out women not just in person but remotely, from the comfort of their own homes. The Heckler’s Veto hasn’t gone away, it’s gone online. Only now, it’s called trolling.

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Tags: asshats, douchecanoes, rape culture

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