Does heckling display free speech or silence it?

Does heckling display free speech or silence it?

Does heckling display free speech or silence it?

An advocate for educational freedom says the University of Maryland sent the wrong message by allowing a group of pro-Palestine protestors to shut down a Democratic congressman's speech.

The speaker was state Representative Jamie Raskin, who is among those calling for a temporary ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas. He believes such an agreement would include the release of hostages being held by Hamas.

But only a few minutes into his speech, protestors reportedly started shouting at him, saying he is "complicit in genocide."

University President Darryll Pines eventually brought the event to a close and described the protest as an example of free speech and democracy in action. But Neil McCluskey, director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute, views it differently.

McCluskey, Neal (Cato Institute) McCluskey

"The president seemed to say heckling so that a speaker cannot be heard, it self-constitutes free speech appropriate for democracy, and I don't think most people would think that's correct," he submits. "They don't want … certainly public institutions to allow that."

He thinks this event provides an example for why confidence in and support for higher education are declining, because, as he points out, a public university like the University of Maryland is supposed to represent and work for the people of the state.

"I think they'd see that it is unacceptable that that university allows, and indeed seems to celebrate, the shutting down and the free exchange of ideas," McCluskey contends.

"I'm not really opposed to heckling," Rep. Raskin responded. "But it seems like heckling today is all about drowning out the speaker, and that's totally antithetical to the spirit of free expression."