There is so much wrong with what went down at UConn Tuesday that it’s hard to know where to start. A right-wing “journalist” was invited to speak by UConn’s College Republicans. Protesters tried to shout him down. One grabbed his speech from the podium. White supremacist Lucian Wintrich followed that woman and grabbed her. Mayhem ensued. Wintrich was arrested. The Connecticut Democratic Party issued an incomprehensible statement. It wasn’t UConn’s finest hour.
Connecticut media seemed to notice at the last minute that Wintrich, the White House correspondent for alt-right outlet Gateway Pundit, was going to speak at the invitation of the UConn College Republicans. His topic? “It’s OK to Be White.” What could go wrong?
(A column for another day is how Wintrich was ever able to procure White House press credentials and therefore a status of credibility that he certainly does not deserve. He is a 29-year old agitating fool who lacks any sort of qualifications as a journalist or as an authority on anything.)
What unfolded at the Andre Schenker Lecture Hall has happened at other universities across the country and is a troubling symptom of a society in which violence is accepted and even encouraged (see President Trump’s campaign).
It should go without saying that UConn does not permit or deny speakers based on the content of the message. That sounds good in theory but not so much in practice. The opinion here is that Wintrich’s despicable speech should have been allowed to proceed absent of violence—the best disinfectant is sunlight. It would be unrealistic to think there wouldn’t be protests, and well there should have been. But when it crosses into violence, that’s where it should end.
News accounts of the breakdown of civility at the event indicate when protesters tried to physically stop the little troll from speaking. Here’s UConn’s account:
“Video of the altercation shows that the guest appeared to remove paperwork from the lectern where Mr. Wintrich was speaking, and that he followed the woman into the audience, where the altercation occurred.
No injuries were reported and no additional arrests have been made at this time.
UConn Police also are investigating an incident in which someone broke a window in the lecture hall as the crowd was leaving and threw a smoke bomb inside. This led to speculation as to whether police had discharged tear gas, but that was not accurate – no tear gas was used or needed…
UConn and the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) were not sponsors or organizers of the event.
UConn does not bar speakers on the basis of content. Free speech, like academic freedom, is one of the university’s bedrock principles…
…That being said, a particular speaker’s or group’s presence on campus doesn’t indicate UConn’s endorsement of the presenter or their message. Any student group is free to reserve on-campus space for a speaker or other program as long as the event adheres to UConn’s guidelines, which apply to all student groups and on-campus programming.”
Disgusting messages should not be met with violence. The lecture hall belongs to the university which means it belongs to the students. Breaking windows to protest a speaker is akin to damage one’s own property—it makes no sense and is counterproductive.
As is their job, the Connecticut Democratic Party tried to make political hay of it all:
“This is despicable, and Connecticut Democrats condemn this violence — and the white supremacy Mr. Wintrich was peddling — in the strongest possible terms. Time after time, from Trump’s attacks on immigrants and proposed Muslim ban, to neo-Nazi rallies in Charlottesville, JR Romano and Connecticut Republicans have stood idly by, or even defended white supremacists or their antics. Today, a white supremacist invited by Connecticut Republicans physically attacked a student. This is our backyard.
“Now is not the time for silence. We’re calling on the Connecticut Republican Party to join us and forcefully condemn this attack — and the UConn GOP’s decision to invite an alt-right speaker in the first place. Freedom of speech is a cornerstone of our society, and the UConn Democrats showed how it could be achieved peacefully, holding a discussion with activists and protesters beforehand to discuss concerns about Mr. Wintrich’s remarks. The contrast could not be clearer.”
Huh? First, sentence structure counts, people. Take a writing class at UConn if necessary. Beyond that, I’m not sure that the state Dems are trying to say. I know of no case in which anyone in Connecticut Republican party leadership “defended white supremacists or their antics.” That’s an outrageous charge that has no basis of fact. When you throw out something like that, any credibility you might have left is lost.
The takeaways from this mess are:
• The UConn College Republicans should do some serious soul searching. Inviting a racist little gnome like Wintrich speaks volumes about their own beliefs whether they like it or not.
• UConn needs to increase its security at events such as these.
• Violence gets you nowhere. Sure, it appears protesters were able to stop Wintrich from speaking but now they look like the intolerant troublemakers that Wintrich is.
• The Connecticut Democratic Party really needs to evaluate its process for issuing statements. Making outrageous charges in its attempt to politicize things leads to loss of credibility.
• Wintrich should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. So too should the person who broke the windows at the venue.
Violent attempts to stop speech—no matter how contemptable the message—is never a good idea. It makes the loathsome speaker a martyr to his base (think Trump) while painting the protesters as the intolerant ones.