Over the past decade
there has been a surprising increase
in the number of cases belonging to
the genre of Heckler's Veto . . .
It's been surprising for two reasons. First, many of these cases have occurred on American college campuses, an environment previously regarded as a bastion of Intellectual Freedom; and, second, because most of us older adults don't generally find ourselves in that environment, so that we are not usually aware of what's going on there.
A hypothetical case which illustrates this kind of incident might go like this: A campus organization invites a prestigious figure to give an address, but a group of protesters show up at the venue and make such a racket that the prospective speaker is forced to withdraw.
What is Heckler's Veto?
There are two basic definitions.
The first definition is a narrow legal definition. Take the hypothetical situation above, when suddenly the police appear on the scene. They unplug the speaker's microphone and tell him to pack up and shut it down. Why? The cops tell him that they don't want any trouble here and that there are angry people outside trying to get in who say they are going to rip the place up and riot if the speaker is allowed a forum here.
In this first definition, it is the government or its representatives, the police, who abrogate the speaker's First Amendment right to speak. Such behavior by the police may also raise the issue of Prior Restraint.
In the second definition, which is broader and more informal, it is the protesters themselves who silence the speaker.
Why the rise in such incidents on American college campuses in recent years? That's a good question!
When we were youngsters, we were taught that we should not infringe on the rights of others. "You have the right to swing your arm as far as the tip of the next guy's nose." We were taught to respect the rights of others.
When did this change?
The increase in this type of situation seems to coincide with the ascendancy of Cable TV News.
Today, Cable TV News provides a potential 24/7 Media Environment capability. And CNN can be considered the leader of the pack, because its "Reach" exceeds its subscription base. If you walk into many fast food outlets, there is a flat screen TV mounted on the wall. And, odds are, it will be tuned to CNN.
CNN readily acknowledges that Breaking News is its stock in trade. When something happens which a lot of people are interested in, viewership rises. But when the world is quiet, viewership tends to decline. Since its advertising revenue is based to some degree on how many viewers are tuned to their channel, the organization has to have strategies to help them maintain a higher level of viewers. More viewers equals more advertising revenue.
It's my impression that one of the strategies CNN has been using recently is to adopt some of the techniques used with successful effect in Reality TV Series. We find Story Arcs, attenuated Drama/Conflict, and Treatments. We even find the classic Unreliable Narrator being featured and given airtime.
These techniques are integral to Hollywood machinery. So, has CNN simply gone Hollywood?
If their recent Treatment of civil disorders and riots is any barometer, maybe it has.
They assigned Don Lemon to act as Master of Ceremonies, giving the disorder an Academy Awards worthy Red Carpet runway approach on which Lemon, who has all the gravitas of a hair stylist, was interviewing anyone with a wild fairytale to tell - the wilder, the better - seemingly, solely for its entertainment value.
Even if you don't subscribe to Cable TV, you might be exposed to it while you're grabbing a bite in a restaurant. It behooves you to keep your wits about you in order to avoid getting bamboozled by CNN et al.
Some of the talk they are airing on the pretext that it is commentary about the News has very little connection to any of the actual facts in the events - maybe no connection at all.
Do try to keep that in mind, even if it seems entertaining at the moment.
:: Wikipedia: Heckler's Veto ::
:: Law Prof Eugene Volokh ::