Brock Lorber

More About: Free Speech

Tom Tancredo and Newton's Third Law of Asshattery

With tongue firmly in cheek, Professor Tom DiLorenzo noted an incident with Tom Tancredo on the campus of UNC as an example of how students are taught to respect free speech.  To the extent Professor DiLorenzo means that rational beings should give respectful consideration to the opinions of others, I heartily agree.

However, I respectfully disagree with Professor DiLorenzo that this incident is an example of disrespect of free speech.

First, it must be noted that I do not believe there is anyone in the world more passionate about respecting freedom of expression than Tom DiLorenzo*.  I have no doubt Professor DiLorenzo would risk his career to gain an opportunity for the voices of these students to be heard because, well, he has.

For every voice to be heard, however, we would have to have a magic wand that stopped time and repealed the laws of physics.  Or, we would have to have private property.

If Tancredo had been invited to speak at a private venue, a mere few blocks away, there could be no moral argument against exclusion of the student protesters.  Because Tancredo was invited to the unowned campus of UNC, however, there can be no moral argument for exclusion of the student protesters.

The tragedy of the Tragedy of the Commons is the commons.

It is physically impossible for two speakers (or groups of speakers) to use the same venue at the same time and yet both voices be heard.  The problem with the caretakers of an unowned facility imposing time and place restrictions is that, sooner or later, they will impose a "what" restriction (the bugaboo that Professor DiLorenzo normally rails against).  In this instance, the caretakers did not impose any "what" restriction, so DiLorenzo's objection boils down to a failure of the caretakers to teach the students by imposing time and place restrictions.

However, it could be physically possible for the student protesters to accomplish the same result (audibly drowning out Tancredo) from an area not under control of the caretakers.  Should the caretakers' responsibility to teach these students extend to property not under their control?

But, all this assumes that the student protesters had not given respectful consideration to the opinions of Tom Tancredo.  The authoritarian sociopathy exhibited by Tancredo would suggest any such consideration would be one-sided.  It is surprising that, following this incident, Tancredo has not issued a call for bombing the student union.

We cannot discount the possibility that, rather than disrespecting Tancredo's opinions, the student protesters have given his opinions all the respect they deserve (at least, in their opinion).  This incident may be an example of a social science equivalent of Newton's third law of motion: for every obnoxious action, there is an opposite and equally obnoxious reaction.

That's the wisdom of crowds and the tragedy of attempting to hold property in common for them.

It is lamentable that a student protester or protesters became destructive.  It is equally lamentable that Tom Tancredo is invited and protested by UNC students rather than begging for change on the streets of Denver.  But, on the continuum of suppression of free speech to the predictable result of free speech on the commons, I would suggest this incident leans heavily toward the latter.

* If you have not taken the time to read and listen to the treasure trove of material by Tom DiLorenzo freely available on both and, you are depriving your brain of much-needed education and entertainment.  I shudder to think of the untold riches that world governments would shower on him if he would just play ball for their side.

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