How to Handle a Bigoted College Speaker


Unhinged bigot Peter LaBarbera recently spoke at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio and a group of pro-equality students there gave a textbook example of how you deal with such a speaker without violating their free speech rights or the right of other students to hear him speak. Kate Geiselman, one of the students who led the effort, tells the story:

But things didn’t quite go as planned. Mr. LaBarbera, we were told, was not there.

Immediately, I suspected him of cowardice. I suspected the club advisers of deliberately manipulating the schedule so students with busy lives, professors with classes to teach, and staff with jobs to get back to would not be able to wait.

But wait we did, and despite my initial paranoia, it appeared that Mr. LaBarbera was legitimately delayed. In fact, one of the club advisers not only asked the assembled guests to stay, but invited us to the mic to explain (“respectfully, and please keep your comments to under one minute”) why we were there.

At first, no one spoke. Then a young woman stood, took the mic offered to her, introduced herself, and said, “I’m here because most of my friends are gay, and I love them with all my heart.” She sat down amid enthusiastic applause.

And then the magic happened.

For the next 40 minutes or so, students and faculty and guests passed the mic to one another and spoke plain truths about their lives and loves. They expressed frustrations and hopes. They professed faith and doubt. Some identified themselves as gay or straight; many did not. Some identified themselves as Christians, others as atheists or Buddhists or agnostics. One man said he moved here from a country where homosexuality was punishable by hanging. Another said that after a history of drug use and time in prison, he had found Christ, and that studying theology in college had deepened his faith and opened his mind. Just before we ran out of time, a woman stood up and said, “I’m a lesbian. After this, I have some work to do, and then I have to get to the grocery store, and then I will have dinner with my partner, and then we will walk the dogs. That is my gay agenda.”…

Mr. LaBarbera approached the podium and apologized affably for keeping us waiting. He talked about the importance of dialogue and respect. And then he said there was no scientific evidence that homosexuality is not a choice. He reminded us that the hypocritical left, in silencing voices like his, is really the party guilty of intolerance.

And that was our cue to leave.

We stood, without a word, and walked out. I heard a woman shouting, “Shame! Shame on you!” There were gasps and a few loud grumbles of disapproval, LaBarbera’s aforementioned “Are you effing kidding me” among them. We walked out of the venue and into the Student Activities Center, where we hugged and laughed and ate Honey Maid graham crackers. Photographs of the venue after we walked out show that about 12 people remained behind, at least two of whom I recognize as allies who likely stayed to see what he would say. It was a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Comments

  1. eric says

    He reminded us that the hypocritical left, in silencing voices like his, is really the party guilty of intolerance.

    The irony of the moment – giving an invited speech to an audience which he claims prevents him from speaking – seems to have been lost on him.

  2. RickR says

    Yeah. And he actually said that, while standing at a podium, into a microphone, in front of an audience.

  3. says

    The irony of the moment – giving an invited speech to an audience which he claims prevents him from speaking – seems to have been lost on him.

    It’s a common theme. A favorite past-time of right-wing pundits is to take to podiums, op-ed pages, and their own radio programs to complain about how the left is always silencing them. They built up a huge media machine just to whine about being voiceless.

  4. cptdoom says

    Well, I hope you’re all happy. This incident, coupled with his shocking arrest in Canada for violating their clearly unconstitutional laws, has made Peter very, very sad. His feelings are hurt and he is DEMANDING an apology and a retraction from Salon for the story above. He insists he never said “are you effing kidding me.”

    Yes, that’s the only thing that he complained about. He has gotten more pathetic than I thought he could ever be.

  5. Jeremy Shaffer says

    I remember reading an article several years ago about William Dembski and another ID proponent being invited to speak at a biological conference. The intent was to give them the chance to make their case for ID to working scientists at actually work in fields related to the theory of evolution. They used that chance to whine about how they’re never given the chance to make their case to scientists.

  6. pocketnerd says

    Mr. LaBarbera approached the podium and apologized affably for keeping us waiting. He talked about the importance of dialogue and respect.

    That’s funny — when LaBarbera is safe and sound in broadcasting right wing radio from his basement, gays are evil disease-spreading child molesters. They are literally Nazis. They hate America, they hate Christians, and they’re just waiting for the moment they can rape your children with impunity. (None of these are hyperbole — they are all statements LaBarbera or Americans for Truth about Homosexuality have made.)

    And then, when he’s talking to a crowd of queers and allies, suddenly he’s all about “the importance of dialogue and respect.” That’s the most wretched display of cowardice I’ve heard of in quite some time.

  7. matty1 says

    EdI always liked the story of the university of where they responded to an anti gay speaker by renaming the room he spoke in “the Peter Tatchell lobby”

  8. matty1 says

    Unconstitutional laws? Please tell me there aren’t people who think the US constitution applies to Canada

  9. says

    BTW, there’s video of the walkout. It looks like there were a little more than 12 people left but several of those were A/V techs who didn’t have a choice to leave.

  10. timberwoof says

    I remember a similar lecture held at the University of Tennessee in about 1980. A number of gay people showed up and tried to contradict what the presenters were saying. The presenters shut them down by saying that while this was dialogue, people pushing the homosexual agenda should host their own lectures.

  11. cptdoom says

    @matty1 #10 – I was being facetious, but would not be surprised to hear LaBarbera argue exactly that.

  12. Synfandel says

    cptdoom wrote: “…his shocking arrest in Canada for violating their clearly unconstitutional laws…”

    I hadn’t heard of any constitutional challenge to mischief laws before any provincial or federal court.

  13. b. - Order of Lagomorpha says

    Today’s Xkcd cartoon seems apropos (xkcd.com). And yay to the students for a wonderful handling of the situation.

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