Perspectives: Lesson from feminist vs. university; free speech, natural rights

OPINION – When a feminist speaker recently canceled a scheduled engagement at Utah State University, her decision should have been easily understandable.

Instead, it has created significant confusion in the minds of some about what exactly the First and Second Amendments are and how they protect our natural rights.

The issue began when an emailed death threat received by USU officials promised to take out Anita Sarkeesian and others in what the writer claimed would be the “deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.” USU police took the threat seriously and promised to beef up security and to conduct backpack checks on attendees.

Given that Sarkeesian had received numerous other death threats that failed to materialize into anything specific, campus police felt the lecture would be fine to continue as scheduled.

Out of concern for her safety, Sarkeesian insisted that that attendees be subjected to pat downs and required to pass through a metal detector before entering the venue. University officials pointed out to her that attendees with a valid concealed firearms permit could not be legally prevented from attending the lecture.

At this point, Sarkeesian asked that police screen the audience members for firearms and only let them in if they had a permit. To their credit, USU police declined to accommodate her request because they felt it was unwarranted and too invasive.

This is when things started getting weird.

Sarkeesian decided that the risk was too great and chose to cancel her lecture. This was her call to make and, since it’s her neck on the line, she had every right to make it. But instead of placing the blame at the feet of her alleged cyberstalker, she chose to rail against Utah’s concealed carry laws and to urge other lecturers to boycott the state until those laws are changed.

This sent a number of her supporters into a predictable flurry of hand-wringing and breathless condemnations of Utah’s “insane” gun laws.

The most common refrain of concerned commentators was how disappointed they were to learn that Utah apparently “puts gun rights above free speech.” That’s a very curious sentiment considering that this issue had exactly nothing to do with gun rights or free speech.

Let’s start with the so-called free speech aspect. Freedom of speech, as guaranteed in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, is a limit on government interference in an individual’s right to speak freely.

It does not protect against the public, individually or collectively, rejecting or disagreeing with what someone is saying. Naturally, this does not excuse death threats or other types of criminal coercion. But the suggestion that Sarkeesian had an enforceable right to be heard is not correct. None of us do.

Government did not limit her opportunity to speak; she chose to cancel her event and then to boycott the state on her own.

She faces the same kinds of risks, in the form of death threats and intimidation, faced by numerous other public figures and sports stars who also occasionally attract the attention of the unbalanced.

Blaming Utah’s gun laws for making her feel unsafe on the USU campus represents a curious misdirection away from the person or persons who threatened her and toward law-abiding concealed carry permit holders.

At this writing, not a shred of evidence exists to suggest that the alleged threat-maker represents one of the hundreds of thousands of lawful concealed firearm permit holders in Utah. So why would Sarkeesian play up the presence of a legally concealed firearm as posing a potential threat to her?

For her to ask that authorities preemptively treat each member of her audience as a potential attacker without any specific suspicion or probable cause is not only wrong but an abridgement of their natural rights. By what right would she impose her will on others who had done no harm?

Special pleading about not feeling safe is not sufficient to justify the wholesale manipulation and control of others who pose no threat.

Thankfully, USU police understood this and declined Sarkeesian’s demands.

A peaceful individual carrying a lawfully concealed firearm is not forcing the exercise of their right on anyone. Since potential adversaries cannot know exactly who is prepared to stop them, the concealed carrier is providing a benefit to those who don’t carry and even those who disagree with Utah’s gun laws.

A general rule of thumb is that genuine natural rights aren’t a tool by which we can bend others to our will.

In the meantime, Utah will just have to get by without enlightenment from lecturers like Anita Sarkeesian.

She’s apparently chosen to put us on a drama-free diet.

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Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and opinion writer in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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  • laytonian October 20, 2014 at 9:25 am

    Au contraire, gunner.
    “a limit on government interference in an individual’s right to speak freely.”

    WHEN someone has been threatened with harm AND the government (USU) refuses to disallow the instruments of that harm from being carried into the area she would speak in, that IS interference.

    More guns. More guns everywhere. You need to make more money selling guns. How many guns do we need? There are already more than 300 MILLION guns in the US. They seldom wear out; who needs new ones all the time?

  • laytonian October 20, 2014 at 9:33 am

    As a gun owner, I find this statement troubling:
    “Since potential adversaries cannot know exactly who is prepared to stop them, the concealed carrier is providing a benefit to those who don’t carry”

    How so? The gunman (a “good guy” until he wasn’t) has the element of surprise on *everyone* whether they are armed or not.

    In Tucson, eight people were killed and many (included Gabby Giffords) were wounded by Loughner. There were “carriers” in the crowd and THEY ALL RAN AWAY. Loughner was stopped by two UNarmed people.

    Recently in Las Vegas, two of Cliven Bundy’s militia friends murdered two police at a pizza restaurant and then pushed their shopping cart armories into a Walmart. Just because you “carry” doesn’t mean you are trained to sense the danger in such a situation….and a “carrier” ended up dying for no reason. The ONLY people to die that day, were armed.

    Note that the above took place in states where CCWs are common. Where ARE all of the “beneficial carriers” you claim are saving us from harm?

    • Feminazis October 20, 2014 at 1:08 pm

      Your misinformation may be the leading cause of your misgivings.
      The writer of this article is being misinterperated on “providing a benefit to those who don’t carry”. You seem to think this means we are out there to protect you and be a deterrant. We are not. The writer is trying to convey that the simple fact that people CAN defend themselves is a good enough reason for a would-be criminal to second guess his actions.
      As a concealed carrier, it is not my duty to protect you. I may, if I deem necessary, attempt to defend myself and others from fear of death or bodily harm.
      The shooter in the Gifford’s incident was a democrat, at a democrat speech. The fact that “if” there were any concealed carriers in that group when shots started flying, and they ran, would not suprise me. In an active-shooter scenario, if I was present, and did not know who or where the shooter was, drawing out is futile, and only presents me as a visible target to another conceal carrier or responding police.
      And to address your most asinine statement: The two vegas shooters were NOT Bundy’s “militia friends”. Bundy’s group were on record as having said that those two were “too extreme and radical, and asked to leave the property”. They were crazy radicals that were only looking for an excuse to kill.
      Side note: the conceal carrier that was shot by them may have been untrained in how to “stop a bad guy” and died, but it is also on record that by distracting them, he may have prevented the two from killing other innocent people and even might have prevented a hostage situation.
      Educate yourself before you spew your liberal rhetoric, thus proving your ignorance.

      • Bender October 20, 2014 at 3:32 pm

        I wonder how you can even get out of bed and face the day with all of the liberal rhetoric killbuzzing your gun hero fantasies. Stay strong brother.

        • Bender October 20, 2014 at 3:33 pm

          whoops, buzzkilling. hang in there FEMINAZIS, the other gun fetishists have your back.

  • A Reader October 20, 2014 at 9:34 am

    A brilliant piece of writing Mr. Hyde. Great understanding of the subject matter.

  • Alex Phillips October 20, 2014 at 9:51 am

    Unfortunately, this rational rebuttal to Sarkeesian’s ridiculous and childish behavior, if it is ever seen outside So. Utah, will simply be written off by radical feminists as the ramblings of a right-wing Mormon misogynist.

    • Bender October 20, 2014 at 3:40 pm

      Nope ALEX PHILLIPS, you gun fetishists are in the minority. Sorry boss, most of the rest of us think you’re nuts. Proof is in the outraged and disjointed bleatings of the gun kooks in these comments.

  • Big Guy October 20, 2014 at 10:25 am

    I don’t always agree with Bryan but this time he’s spot on. I am not a concealed firearm carrier nor have I ever owned a gun of any kind. But our Constitution allows private citizens to own guns and a number of states allow concealed carry. What little information I could find on the Internet indicates that concealed carry permit holders are LESS likely than the general public to be involved in any type of crime. I for one feel a little safer NOT knowing which of you might be carrying a concealed weapon!

  • Feminazis October 20, 2014 at 11:10 am

    Feminazis- demanding equality and fairness for all, unless they happen to disagree with you or your cause.

    I’m not from this state originally; I’m a transplant here, like so many others. I happen to like the state (for the most part), and enjoy more of my rights and freedoms here than in my previous state (i.e.- conceal carry permit).
    Now, there are certain things I don’t care for as well, but I sure won’t try to impose my will on the local authorities and populace just for my own eccentric peace of mind.

    What would Anita have said if someone had also demanded that a basic I.Q. and reasoning test was performed on all those attending here ‘lecture’?
    If I, as a person, feel that large groups of stupid people being lectured and indoctrinated by Anita are a threat to my freedoms and way of life, should I not also get to make insipid demands of others as well?

    Please, Anita- by all means boycott this state

  • lissy October 20, 2014 at 11:44 am

    FEMINAZIS—- You are going to get slammed for your post. As an intelligent, truly independent woman who also moved here from out of state, I applaud you. And I agree. I live here. I hate some things about this place. But here I am. I am free to leave.

  • Koolaid October 20, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    Given the high rate of domestic violence against women in the state of Utah by its controlling men who view women as property that should stay at home as well as the number of gun kooks, I can understand her concern for her own safety. Had someone taken a potshot at her, too, with the shooter being of a particular religion, would the masses then try placing the blame on her while offering excuses and fundraisers to the shooter?

    • Jonathan October 21, 2014 at 8:02 am

      First of all, stop with the pointing fingers at the LDS church already. Your not very clever with saying “particular religion” and trying to sound a innocent. Second, what study are you pulling your info out of which states Utah as one of the highest states for domestic violence against women? I found no such information. I did see that Utah was the forth lowest state for murder against women for 2014 on numerous sites. Lastly, your a bully and prejudice. Stop it with the assumption that this state believes that women are property. I’m sick of people like you making your stupid, stereotypical comments about Mormons. Sorry if a mormon offended you, but it’s a great religion that sticks up for values, especially violence against women.
      Get your facts strait, stop being a jerk to religions, and enjoy life for a change.

      • Koolaid October 21, 2014 at 5:33 pm

        Oh Jonathon, Jonathon, Jonathon. How doth that “D” stand for Denial. Please pull your head out from the depths of the dixie sands.

  • Visiting Anthropologist October 20, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    Let’s not forget that the death threats were not against her in this instance, but a threat to carry out a massacre on the campus. I’m confident that if she had gone ahead with her appearance and then such a massacre HAD occurred, those who are criticizing her for NOT appearing would be busy and loud right now criticizing her FOR appearing and putting students at risk. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

    If her decision not to appear saved lives in Utah, you all should be thanking her instead of ridiculing.

  • JAR October 20, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    Bryan, A Fine Article you penned. I agree with you.
    Also, the previous comments of others were interesting as well.
    FemiNazis,, You sound like a right thinking Dude- (dude or princess that is).

  • Red Rocker October 20, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    Bryan is preaching to his choir..
    -An unarmed man

  • Bender October 20, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    Angry, frightened man-child attempts to assert his manhood by anonymously threatening mayhem on strangers. Threatened womans says keep your creepy guns away from me. Now hoards of other frightened, impotent men whine that they feel abused. How will they fulfill their juvenile Hollywood revenge fantasy if damsel in distress tells them to stay away? Same old, same old.

    • koolaid October 20, 2014 at 4:08 pm

      Probably at home joyfully rejoicing with his dogs and horses

  • Oh Really? October 20, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    Looks to me like this was nothing more than a cheap publicity stunt! Wonder which one of her friends/followers she persuaded to make this threat.

  • JustBen October 20, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    What if the author of the death threat that created the whole debate used bombs? The whole debate over concealed carry would be moot. Funny how “massacre” makes people assume guns. Could be a knife attack by a mob. Incidentally, most mass shootings involve rifles, not so much handguns.

  • Liahoni October 20, 2014 at 10:17 pm

    Very well written piece, Bryan.
    It seems when you scratch a Liberal it exposes the Totalitarian underneath.

  • Jonathan October 21, 2014 at 8:08 am

    Too bad that there are morons out there trying to ruin a good cause. Too bad the media, especially Hollywood., can’t stop portraying women as sexual objects. Just today I saw two articles on Yahoo. One article was discussing this current issue against women. The second promoted how Selena Gomez has taken her “sexiest” photo shoot yet.
    What a blind, mixed society we live in. It’s too bad.

    • Koolaid October 21, 2014 at 11:54 am

      Women in these Utah parts portray themselves as sexual objects. Why else would so many of them get boob jobs and wear skimpy tight clothes all the time? The submissive Utah women are offended by outgoing women who are savvy and intelligent in the business and political arenas. Go figure.

  • sagemoon October 21, 2014 at 8:25 am

    Good article, Bryan. Are those last two sentences meant to be snarky? If so, I would have enjoyed the article a lot more without them.

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