Monday, May 29, 2017

"There you go again, KUNM" (with apologies to Ronald Reagan)

Sigh. I give up.

Dear Ms. Baumgartel and KUNM (copying FIRE and those...extremist speakers)

While listening to the news this morning, I heard Ms. DeMarco's update on the again-labelled "extremist" speakers vs the costs incurred in Milo Yiannopolis' visit. I had thought that as you say below, such labelling of people as extremists rather than identifying their points of view violated AP style guidelines and therefore the station's own reporting rules.

As far as charging variable security fees, there is a problem with that idea of which the station is apparently unaware.  Forsyth County v Nationalist Movement, 505 US 123 (1992) pointed out that speech cannot be held hostage to the heckler's veto with movable "security fees" based on content.  I find it ironic that a station that just got a news award for good work (and I congratulate you for the award) has once again missed the boat on an important First Amendment issue.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education shot off a letter to Pres. Abdallah pointing out the legal issues with security fees, which explains why Abdallah was compelled to waive the security fee and suspend part of the UNM policy. Here is a link.

I really wish the station would identify, clearly, what is station editorial content (are these the opinions of the station or of the reporter?) and what is news.

Finally, both sides can play at this game and pretty soon the world will be silent.  A colleague of mine in the gun violence prevention community recently posted a link to a National Rifle Assn. site that categorizes animal rights advocates as extremists who are, in the NRA's language, out to end civilization as we know it. Imagine if my former college classmate and now law professor Gary Francione, an outspoken iconoclast in the animal rights movement, were to be invited to speak at UNM and his visit were torpedoed by speech fees imposed by rioters from the alt-right or NRA? I wonder if the station would treat the story the same way.

We need to protect all speech, not just that which we agree with. Implicitly giving value to heckler's veto costs vs. the message of a speaker is not a great idea.

Note added later. The station stands by its reporting (see Baumgartel's comment in the KUNM link), and I stand by my objection. I guess I might "vote with my checkbook" next time KUNM has a fund drive going.

Another note added later. If you think this is nuts, check out the situation at Evergreen State College.Here is Eugene Volokh's take.

At 24 hours and 18 minutes, Sen. Thurmond 
holds the record for longest Senate filibuster. 
Now that is extreme speaking
 Finally, Ms. Baumgartel has not responded, last time I checked, to my question of what constitutes an "extreme speaker". Here's my candidate: former U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond of S. Carolina, who holds the record for the longest filibuster in U.S. Senate history. Now if that ain't an extreme speaker, I'm not sure what is....

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