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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