Smith reacts to anti-gay bigot

Last night Ryan Sorba, an “anti-homosexual activist” spoke at Smith College. Sorba, the author of the upcoming book, “The Born Gay Hoax,” (yes, seriously) can been seen in action here. The awesome feminists of Smith forced Sorba out after a mere twenty minutes of speaking, when he was drowned out by protesters.

Pam has more.
Thanks to Diana and Anne for the heads up!

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87 Comments

  1. dangerousxdebbie
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    this asshat spoke at my school (framinham state college), and i honestly wish i hadn’t sat through his entire lecture. all he did was READ to us, admitted he didn’t even do his own research (yeah, someone gave him a box full of info), and talked out of his ass and around questions. at the time, i was pleased that no one was blatantly rude to him during his speech, but asked pointed questions at the end of it. now i really wish that we had had a protest like smith did. unfortunately the college republicans at my school considered the event a success because so many people were there (not in support of the event, but more to satisfy curiousity). our gsa, myself included, each dressed in a color of the rainbow and sat in order, in an attempt to subtly protest, but no one noticed. i really wish someone had had the courage at my school to stand up and stand out and say something about it.

  2. AK
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    I’m pretty frustrated with the fact that this entire controversy has become about the protesters, as opposed to actually discussing what the Smith Republican Club did, by bringing an anti-gay speaker to a campus like Smith College.

  3. Big Al72
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    Freedom of speech is ABSOLUTE. We don’t make exceptions for speech we don’t like. If you think it’s ok to have an angry mob shout someone down, then you lose the moral right to speak in public. It’s extremely hypocritical to expect to be heard, while denying others that same right. I hope everyone here who thinks it’s fine to shout someone down thinks of that before they post again or say something in public. Shame on the commenters here who would stamp on the rights of others. Shame on the people at Smith who felt that they couldn’t handle someone else’s speech.
    This is a sad day for liberalism.

  4. amneris21
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

    I miss Smith so much…
    Someone asked why Republican students would even choose to attend Smith in the first place. Because it’s an amazing school that provides an incredible education!! That being said…
    It’s a shame that the Republican Club hadn’t picked up on the first lesson we learn at Smith: everyone is allowed to experience and identify with their sexuality and gender however they may choose without fear of judgement or repression. My Smith education extended far beyond the classroom. I was introduced to so many aspects of sexuality and gender, and I developed a deep respect for everyone who is proud of their sexual identity.
    Inviting that speaker to campus was an insult to Smith’s prominent LGBTQ population, and I completely support their reaction.

  5. LlesbianLlama
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

    “Freedom of speech is ABSOLUTE. We don’t make exceptions for speech we don’t like.”
    That’s the thing- freedom of speech is not, and never has been absolute.

  6. Posted May 1, 2008 at 12:16 am | Permalink

    That’s the thing- freedom of speech is not, and never has been absolute.
    Yeah well I’m not sure we should be proud that we’re keeping that tradition alive.

  7. thewellofemoness
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 12:33 am | Permalink

    ok, Smith is not a public place. It is private property and therefore the whole “absolute freedom of speech” does not apply.
    Also, I’m assuming Smith has some sort of a policy regarding hate speech and harassment. That man came onto PRIVATE PROPERTY and engaged in HATE SPEECH! That man BROKE THE RULES! If Disneyland has a rule against chewing gum and I go onto their property and chew gum they have the right to kick me out of Disneyland, even though the United States constitution grants me the freedom to chew gum in public places.
    However, Smith did not kick that man out. They let him stay (which I think was the right decision). But the students did the right thing by not putting up with his garbage. He can say it in any public place, but not a private safe space that people PAY to have access to.
    -(hopefully) a future Smith student

  8. LlesbianLlama
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    rocket-
    There are a few very specific provisions in law that forbid certain types of speech at certain times for very good reasons. Perhaps you should familiarize yourself with those exceptions before you imply that any suppression of any speech whatsoever is a negative thing.
    Furthermore- Ryan Sorba did not have his speech censored. He spoke. We spoke louder. There is really no provision in free speech that says that I have to sit around quietly and politely listening to every word he says without saying anything in return, and no rules that I defer to that dictate when and if I am allowed to respond and how.

  9. thewellofemoness
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    ok, Smith is not a public place. It is private property and therefore the whole “absolute freedom of speech” does not apply.
    Also, I’m assuming Smith has some sort of a policy regarding hate speech and harassment. That man came onto PRIVATE PROPERTY and engaged in HATE SPEECH! That man BROKE THE RULES! If Disneyland has a rule against chewing gum and I go onto their property and chew gum they have the right to kick me out of Disneyland, even though the United States constitution grants me the freedom to chew gum in public places.
    However, Smith did not kick that man out. They let him stay (which I think was the right decision). But the students did the right thing by not putting up with his garbage. He can say it in any public place, but not a private safe space that people PAY to have access to.
    -(hopefully) a future Smith student

  10. Rachel
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 12:36 am | Permalink

    In several discussions on campus it has been brought up that the space chosen by the Smith College Republicans was the Neilson Browsing Room, which is a small room at the entrance to the library which is commonly used for lunch time lectures on the stock market and managing money, or academic lectures from visiting professors. The emphasis is that this is a SMALL space on campus for anything which might be controversial. The Republican Club advertised this event with a banner in the campus center, which everyone would have had the opportunity to see. I have very little respect for the Republican Club on campus, and I believe they intentionally chose a space which would not accommodate a crowd. In a long series of emails sent around prior to the lecture, there was a heavy emphasis on a “respectful” protest–signs, turning backs as he said things which were offensive, an alternative love-in event. I did not attend the protest, (although I could hear the shouting from the class I was in) but I have been told by several people that the situation escalated because there was not sufficient room and people were barred from entering. Additionally, the Republicans betrayed an internalized victimhood in how they introduced Sorba–while the protest was still quiet and before there was any shouting.
    Message to the Smith College Republicans (although clearly they won’t be reading this thread): STEP IT UP. If you want to participate in a dialogue, stop antagonizing your fellow students and intentionally provoking this kind of protest. Also, please stop getting manipulated by sleazy conservatives with book deals who invite themselves over for publicity. It makes you look bad. (That’s right, Sorba asked the Republicans if he could come speak, for free, and they agreed, and paid for his travel expenses.)

  11. thewellofemoness
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 12:37 am | Permalink

    (whoops, sorry about the double post, my computer is not refreshing)
    sorry

  12. Leslie
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    for someone to say they’re “anti-homosexual”, to me, is like saying you’re anti-hair. how can you be anti-something that’s a natural part of who a person is? I understand the history of (sick, twisted, discriminatory, violent, etc.) thinking behind it.. but sometimes it just boggles my mind.

  13. Posted May 1, 2008 at 1:11 am | Permalink

    For all the discussion of the need for reasoned debate with Sorba and his ilk, it seems that something is being lost from sight.
    Some things should not be part of “debate”. Hate propagandists crave “debate”, because it implicitly recognises their “viewpoint” as a legitimate position.
    Sometimes engaging in “debate” is giving up the store.

  14. Commodore08
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 1:30 am | Permalink

    What Elise said.
    I mean, I don’t think these students could have made it any more clear that they don’t think they have anything to gain from nor any good reason to engage in a discourse with someone espousing these views. And can anyone with any sense really argue otherwise? Did you hear what they were chanting? “we’re here, and we’re queer, get used to it.” They don’t want a discussion about it, because there’s nothing to discuss. They’re here. They’re queer. Get used to it.
    I mean, do I really need to engage with someone and talk it out and argue logically when they say something else completely ridiculous? Say, that because I’m a woman I have no right to an education? No. I have nothing to gain from, nor any moral compulsion to engage with such an argument. Does this mean I shout it down? Well, I suppose I could ignore the person. But when the person comes into my space, a space I’m going into debt to pay for, a space I should feel safe in, a space I expect to treat me, without any question or hesitation, as a legitimate person living a legitimate lifestyle, ignoring them is allowing them to violate, infiltrate, and define your space. That isn’t acceptable. Shouting was called for and I can’t imagine anyone doing it more beautifully or eloquently than these women at Smith did… :)

  15. Posted May 1, 2008 at 1:36 am | Permalink

    …Shouting was called for and I can’t imagine anyone doing it more beautifully or eloquently than these women at Smith did… :)
    Much more eloquently put than I managed.
    Sometimes, the only reasonable response to something is: Shut the fuck up.

  16. Mina
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 5:42 am | Permalink

    “Freedom of speech is ABSOLUTE. We don’t make exceptions for speech we don’t like.”
    Here you say freedom of speech should have no exceptions…
    “If you think it’s ok to have an angry mob shout someone down, then you lose the moral right to speak in public.”
    …and here you make an exception for loud speech by groups, instead of treating freedom of speech as an absolute.
    “I mean, do I really need to engage with someone and talk it out and argue logically when they say something else completely ridiculous? Say, that because I’m a woman I have no right to an education? No. I have nothing to gain from, nor any moral compulsion to engage with such an argument.”
    Exactly!

  17. Sarolynne
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 6:04 am | Permalink

    “Freedom of speech is ABSOLUTE. We don’t make exceptions for speech we don’t like. If you think it’s ok to have an angry mob shout someone down, then you lose the moral right to speak in public.”
    The irony here is pretty freaking flawless.
    By speaking–even civilly–someone does not automatically have the right to silence those who protest.

  18. Sarolynne
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    “Freedom of speech is ABSOLUTE. We don’t make exceptions for speech we don’t like. If you think it’s ok to have an angry mob shout someone down, then you lose the moral right to speak in public.”
    The irony here is pretty freaking flawless.
    By speaking–even civilly–someone does not automatically have the right to silence those who protest.

  19. Amandasaurus
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    thank you leslle. i hardly find it acceptable to tell a blonde or brunette that i disagree with their hair color whether they were born with it or dyed it last week. consider this relevance when considering sexuality…

  20. Ellid
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    More info on the Republican Club -
    I saw their newsletter, The Right View, last night. First of all, the entire club appears to consist of about nine students (one African-American, one Indian, the rest white), almost all of them first years and sophomores. They do not seem to accept SGA funds (at least to publish The Right View), so I’d like to know where they got the money to pay for anyone to come to campus in the first place.
    Second, The Right View is the worst written publication I’ve ever seen that was produced by students at Smith. I matriculated in 1978, graduated in 1978, and have lived near the campus since 1988. The newsletter (all eight pages of it) looked like something a bunch of high schoolers would have produced, not students at one of the top schools in America.
    Even worse, The Right View is *not* primarily written by Smith students. Most of the contributors were students at UMass or Western New England College (25 miles away!), and the two worst articles were by men (one of them a middle aged graduate student at UMass, the one a smarmy looking fratboy type from WNEC). Articles included one on the “link between abortion and breast cancer” and a long, adulatory obituary of William F. Buckley, Jr.
    Even worse, they proudly state that they do not accept school funds, and that The Right View is funded entirely by “generous contributions from our supporters.” This sounds very much like a Dartmouth Review situation, where right-wing conservatives funded an ultra-conservative magazine that published deliberately inflammatory material.
    Regardless, this whole thing smells of an attempt by a marginal group to get attention by bringing in a hate monger just before exams. I wonder how those Republicans were treated by their housemates when they returned to their dorms after the debacle?

  21. Destra
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    First off, what was that idiot doing at Smith?
    Second, I love how the feminists showed up in force. It was brilliant. I wish we could see such turnouts at anti-women speakers.
    Finally, as much as I love the message and the mass of people that showed up, is yelling over your opponents really that great of thing? It only shows that you have more people to your cause, not that you’re right.

  22. Big Al72
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    ok, Smith is not a public place. It is private property and therefore the whole “absolute freedom of speech” does not apply.
    I wasn’t talking about government restriction on speech. I was talking about people’s moral right in a free society to use their faculties (or lack thereof as the case may be), and engage with other people. If Smith, itself, had shut down the speech or pre-emptively cancelled it, there would be different issues, though I think that Smith probably recieves some public funds, which means the first amendment does apply to it.
    …and here you make an exception for loud speech by groups, instead of treating freedom of speech as an absolute.
    umm… no. shouting down someone is either not speech, or as someone said above, is the basest form of speech. I think it’s probably better classified as a form of violence rather than speech. No one has any moral right to do that. I don’t care how much you hate the speech.
    The irony here is pretty freaking flawless.
    By speaking–even civilly–someone does not automatically have the right to silence those who protest.
    I’m not quite sure what you mean. I’m saying that no one has the right to silence any one else’s speech. The only irony I can see is that here we have smart, proudly outspoken people who are cheering on the silencing of someone else’s speech.
    Lastly, in response to those who say that we can’t have a debate with his ideas. I pretty much agree. But that doesn’t give us the right to stop his speech.

  23. SarahMC
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    STOP. STOP appealing to Freedom of Speech when you don’t even understand what protections are granted by the 1st amendment.
    I am getting really fucking sick of having to say this in every other comments thread.

  24. sgzax
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    I’m all for a free exchange of differing viewpoints, but when someone’s viewpoint involves a radical negation of another person’s rights and existence I think the principle underlying the free exchange is shattered. The only adequate response to ‘You are a mistake and you should not exist’ is ‘Shut the fuck up.’

  25. Annie
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    I think it’s probably better classified as a form of violence rather than speech. No one has any moral right to do that. I don’t care how much you hate the speech.
    Who are you to say that no one has a moral right to shout? Objective morality is a dangerous road to go down, my friend. I’ll say it again: just because he has the ‘right’ to speak doesn’t mean that we have to be quiet so that he can be heard. I’m so tired of people saying ‘FREEDOM OF SPEECH IS ABSOLUTE’ as if you have can’t utter a peep while someone else is speaking. He got his chance to speak, and so did we.
    Also, it’s not about hating the speech or disagreeing with what he has to say. It’s hate speech (Ryan Sorba is closely associated with Young Americans for Freedom, which is designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center). It’s hate speech that targets a huge portion of the Smith community. If a speaker had targeted any other community on campus with hate speech, the administration would never allow the event to go forward. This just fits in with the Smith administration’s long-held tradition of ignoring or downplaying the existence of the queer population on campus.

  26. WheresTheBeef?
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Someone mentioned being frustrated that this whole discussion has become about the protesters, rather than the Smith Republicans. I regret that, so I just wanted to add, “Smith College Republicans, you suck!�

  27. kali
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Nothing shames feminists, LGBT activists and liberals more than silencing conservative speakers through disruption of scheduled speaking events.
    As a lesbian I find his views dehumanisingly offensive, but if he has been afforded a specific forum to speak, then he should be allowed to use it without mob intervention.
    Not one of you would condone such behaviour if the shoe were on the other foot, e.g. a pro-choice advocate being shouted down by screams of “baby-killer�. Just because we know that we as feminists are the progressive ones, with human rights and dignity on our side, does not give us licence to act like thugs.
    Denying your opponent the ability to express their views is typical of well…The Patriarchy, where might-makes-right and opposing views are so ‘dangerous’ that they must be crushed. This trend is sadly typical of any group who come to hate their enemy so much they come to reflect the very values they fought against.
    Those screeching “hate speech,” even if accurate in this instance, should perhaps look at their own depth of hatred.

  28. Posted May 1, 2008 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Ellid- the Smith Republicans DO receive funding, The Right View (which, while almost identical member-wise to Smith Repubs and therefore are justly conflated with them) does not. Just clarifying. :)

  29. Big Al72
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    STOP. STOP appealing to Freedom of Speech when you don’t even understand what protections are granted by the 1st amendment. I am getting really fucking sick of having to say this in every other comments thread.
    I wasn’t talking about the first amendment. I was talking about our moral obligation to let others speak. This is an obligation we have as humans. See Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Declaration_of_Human_Rights
    It’s also an obligation we have as members of the reality based community. We don’t have to listen to every idea, but we can’t decide to silence any of them.
    Who are you to say that no one has a moral right to shout?
    It is your hypocrisy that gives me that right. If you believe that you have the right to silence other’s speech, you have no right whatsoever to speak yourself.
    It’s hate speech (Ryan Sorba is closely associated with Young Americans for Freedom, which is designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center). It’s hate speech that targets a huge portion of the Smith community.
    I agree its awful speech, but that doesn’t change the fact that it should be heard. Bad ideas should be exposed to the full scorn of everyone else. Censhorship gives bad ideas unwarranted attention.

  30. Faerylore
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    And Kali, while you’re entitled to your own view of the reported events, as another lesbian I think it’s awesome that they felt empowered enough to stand up to this hater and the segment of the religious right he represents.
    I don’t think that any of us have the right to say that they should be ashamed of standing up for themselves, in any way they felt necessary. Nobody here has said that they’ve done anything illegal. Just because it’s not something you would personally do, doesn’t mean it’s wrong, and doesn’t mean it wasn’t an appropriate response.
    And god-damn it, I’m tired of people saying that this guy deserved an intellectual debate. That sort of debate needs mutual respect to go well. There is nothing like that here, as we all know.
    And besides, like I (and others above this post) have said before, nobody has the right to require me or anybody to be polite and sweet and accommodating no matter what hate-filled propaganda they promote.
    There are a million different things that could have been done, and from the sound of it, they’re already doing lots of those different things already. So I while I see the situation, there’s nothing here I have a problem with.
    Besides of course that the school let this idiot on campus specifically to insult and degrade a segment of that campus population. But it’s a ‘learning situation’ you know. Or a reality check, in that yep, it’s still not safe to be queer no matter where you go. Like we didn’t already know that.

  31. kali
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    “…there’s nothing here I have a problem with.â€?
    That is the problem, that people like you cannot extrapolate the consequences of your actions (or actions that you support) past this specific instance. What would be the effect on public debate if people responded to every speaker they disagreed through shouting and intimidation?
    Sure you got the right-wing Christian this time (and on an emotional level I find it very satisfying), but what about when it is the fundamentalist Muslim spewing misogyny and homophobia? What if you wanted to speak on that subject and the Muslim Student Association and certain ‘anti-War’ groups shouted you down as an ‘Islamophobe’, ‘racist,’ etc.? From their perspective condemning religious-based bigotry is ‘hate speech’ you know.
    If you want a society where free speech is beholden to the whim of a mob, then you need to be prepared for sexual and gender minorities to be crushed by religious conservatives in the world because there are a lot more of them than there are of us and their threshold to actual violence is a hell of a lot shorter.
    Really some of you have no enlightened self-interest.

  32. popomo
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    More videos have gone up on youtube from earlier on in the lecture, when he was really just speaking to a packed room (and I say room, not auditorium, because it had a max 50 person capacity). I think it’s important to see that the protest evolved based on a collective in the midst of various practices of protest, and also grew out of the specifics of the event (students barred from entering, plain clothes police, hired videographers on Sorba’s end, but otherwise camera’s were shut off, students being man-handled)
    Here’s one example, but look at the rest under “sammylyon”:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lVEm_L7G3A

  33. Faerylore
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    “What would be the effect on public debate if people responded to every speaker they disagreed through shouting and intimidation?”
    Nobody here is saying that they would support doing that to any and every speaker. I certainly haven’t. Maybe you should read through the comments again. If somebody seriously wants to have a respectful and nuanced conversation about the intersections of faith and sexuality, I am fully supportive. That isn’t what happened here. And he isn’t somebody whom I would like to have that conversation with. Excuse me while I demand a little respect and accountability from both sides.
    Where you and I disagree is that I won’t waste my time arguing with idiots who can’t be reasoned with. I’m not going to debate my own right to exist to someone who thinks I deserve to go to hell. What’s the point? His position is ridiculous, disrespectful, and I will not lend his opinions legality by pretending that they’re worth responding to in a respectful manner. That guy deserved a large (and loud) fuck-off. If he had been willing or capable of having a respectful debate, where at minimum everyone was treated with human dignity, I would agree with you. However I am not willing to give the time of day to every hate-spewing idiot who wants to judge me or my ‘lifestyle’, and responding to such speech gives it an air of validity that it doesn’t merit.
    I understand that you don’t want the homophobes trying to silence us in turn. I see your viewpoint, and if this had happened on public property I might have even agreed with you. But it wasn’t public property, and I don’t believe that anyone may just go anywhere and say whatever they want. Smith is a private university that I thought was committed to maintaining a safe and respectful space for queer people, I want to know why this guy was allowed on campus in violation of that space.

  34. Ellid
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    Cscarlet – thanks for the clarification about the Republicans. I honestly couldn’t tell from reading their newsletter who funded what.
    I graduated in 1982, btw, back before the campus Republicans found it necessary to have major chunks of their newsletter written by men old enough to be their father….

  35. Posted May 1, 2008 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    ROFL! Freedom of speech is not “absolute,” though it’s adorable you think it is. There’s a reason you can’t yell “bomb” on an airplane. No, sometimes people are just wrong. And they’re drown out for a reason. Listen. I’m about a man-crazy as it gets, but had that fucknut been speaking at my school, I would have been close to rioting. I don’t understand why people who have a serious problem with women and gays are always afforded some sort or weird courtesy. Again, I ask, if someone had come to a school saying Jews or Blacks had CHOSEN their race or culture, would everyone have been so amenable to a “discussion” on the issue. Give me a fucking break.

  36. E.Liedel
    Posted May 2, 2008 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    As a huge fan of Smith College (class of ’04 and former SGA President), as well as one of the people who walked out of the Ann Coulter talk on campus a few years ago, I want to express how fucking pissed I am that the Smith Republicans chose to bring this type of speaker to campus. It is an open slap in the face to a large portion of the Smith community, and as far as I can tell Ryan Sorba adds nothing to legitimate intellectual or academic discourse. I think that if the Smith Republicans want the respect of the Smith community – which, though I don’t agree with them politically, I think they should have – then they need to earn it.
    And to all the kickass Smithies and others who stood up and said, NO, not in MY community, kudos to you. I won’t glorify the silencing of a guest speaker, but I will say that what you did took a great deal of courage and pride. Keep being noisy!

  37. Big Al72
    Posted May 2, 2008 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    “ROFL! Freedom of speech is not “absolute,” though it’s adorable you think it is. There’s a reason you can’t yell “bomb” on an airplane.”
    That’s not speech. That’s a crime (as is child porn, conspiracy to commit a crime, etc.).

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