The Georgetown protestors are decidedly illiberal in their approach. Their actions are not about promoting free-speech, but about silencing a perspective with which they do not agree. Reardon-Anderson tacitly acknowledges this by refusing to condemn the students’ removal. In fact, he applauds the success of the system:
Happily for those who found these interruptions improper, the system worked: The offending parties were warned to stop and — when they failed to heed the warning — they were removed from the hall or they left of their own accord. There was no threat to the health and safety of anyone. The event proceeded without further disruption.The fact that he acknowledges that their removal was appropriate signifies that the protestors were not behaving in accordance with the concept of free-speech. If they were, any attempt to silence them should be castigated. The error that Reardon-Anderson and so many like-minded supporters make is that they confuse speech with noise. Free-speech prevents restrictions on the contribution of ideas to the community; it does not allow individuals to create noise to drown out others speech. Silencing Petraeus by talking over him is tantamount to duct-taping his mouth closed.
While it is the opinion of ANR that the constitutional right to free-speech is (or should be) only applicable to the government’s ability to limit speech and is not necessarily a restriction on private institutions ability to limit speech, we do support the voluntary commitment to this principle that institutions such as Georgetown profess. It is important to note that tyranny need not just come from the majority (if Petraeus is even part of the majority) or the government. Tyranny comes from anyone who unjustly abrogates the rights of another. Free-speech, as a principle, protects against this injustice. In this instance, the protestors are committing the highest form of tyranny by silencing another. They should have every right to present and discuss their perspectives, but only if they allow others to dialogue as well. The irony is that they are defended in the name of the very principles they cease to respect.