The Value of Protesting, Disrupting, and/or Silencing Antonin Scalia
The following Wespeak was collectively authored by a number of involved students, including the following: Virgil Taylor ’15, Ross Levin ’15, Nico Vitti ’12, Paul Blasenheim ’12, Zak Kirwood ’12, Cheryl Walker ’12, Meggie McGuire ’12, Mariama Eversley ’14, Isabelle Gauthier ’14, Josh Krugman ’14, Joseph Cribb ’13, Hannah Rubin ’13, Cesar Chavez ’15, Dan Fischer ’12, and Mica Taliaferro ’12. Though it may be written from a first-person perspective, it should be taken as a collective statement of these signers and the larger collective organizing dissent for Scalia’s arrival.
I find it extremely disappointing that so many students on this campus have such an uncritical attitude towards illegitimate authority structures like the Supreme Court and are even more militant against any form of organized, disruptive dissent expressed towards these structures. What follows is my response to some of the most commonly voiced concerns of liberal Wesleyan students:
Liberal students say that protesting Scalia would undermine the credibility of Wesleyan students. I actually think that it would undermine Wesleyan students’ credibility as critical thinkers who are supposed to take action in the face of injustice if there were to be no protest at all. People who would look down upon us for expressing dissent are not the people we would be trying to reach anyway, because they will likely look down upon any challenges to institutionalized power no matter how they’re expressed.
Liberal students say that there is an inherent value in hearing other people’s perspectives in a democracy. I agree, but I already know Scalia’s perspective and so do most people who will be at the lecture - you can read about it on Wikipedia or watch him on Youtube giving what will likely be a basically similar speech as the one he will give to us. Scalia’s perspective is well established in the discourses of the media and in the communities and homes that many of us students come from. I and other students have heard enough white supremacist capitalist patriarchy dressed up in rational discourse and we think that these ideas need to be challenged openly.
Liberal students say that protesting him would be attacking his ability to voice his opinions and believe what he wants to believe. This is one of the most absurd, infuriating arguments that I’ve heard from students and administrators about Scalia’s visit. Here’s why:
Scalia has perhaps one of the most powerful positions from which to voice his opinions all the time - that’s basically his main job, to produce opinions based on his personal belief and have them be effected into policy. So his ability to voice his beliefs is perhaps more protected than most people’s, and in fact I would argue that his free speech actually has the effect of silencing many others (take his Citizens United ruling for example, or his impassioned defense of anti-sodomy laws). Scalia’s basically unrestricted authority to free speech that has the ability to affect policy is one of the main reasons this illegitimate power needs to be challenged.
Liberal students say that everyone at Wesleyan has the same liberal opinions and that we need some ideological diversity to freshen up our dialogue. The reality is that expressions of dissent that are critical of Scalia’s illegitimate authority and critical of problematic institutions like the Supreme Court and the United States government are in fact much more unheard and unique than anything Scalia has to say. I would propose that most students at Wesleyan are actually entirely unfamiliar with critiques of state authority, “objective” legal discourse, and settler colonialism that many students protesting Scalia would be voicing.
With that said, I urge you to abandon your wimpy liberal notions of decorum and propriety as they only serve to validate existing authoritarian hierarchies that are responsible daily for the (living) deaths of marginalized peoples. Let’s give Scalia a real Wesleyan Welcome and remind him that his power is illegitimate and ultimately subject to the rage of the people his power subordinates.