Report Back on the Shameful Noise at the Law and Disorder Conference
The article below appeared as a comment to another article. To be clear, I did not write it. However, I deeply feel that it should be heard. What happened at L&D was DISGUSTING. A few hyper-egos screaming their stupid heads off to silence activists who had traveled long distances to speak on a very important topic was nothing but reprehensible. This sort of self serving and egotistical behavior is SHAMEFUL. Those who did this should be deeply, deeply ashamed of themselves, not patting themselves and each other on the backs and feeling self important, as they are doing right now. Disgusting. Just disgusting.
Audience member report 12.May.2014 11:27
Saturday, I tried to attend a panel presentation at the PSU Law and Disorder Conference. The talk would have included information about informers, infiltrators and provocateurs and ideas about how social movements can protect themselves.
As I opened the door to the second floor, in the PSU Smith building, I was wondering where room 238 was. I didn't have to look at all because I immediately heard angry shouting -- and since one of the panelists had mentioned that certain people might try to disrupt the discussion I followed the shouting. Sure enough there sat the panelists, someone at a microphone, some of the audience sitting and several people - it seemed mostly young women - stood, shouting angrily.
I was not one of panelists and while I knew one of them, I was not the person's close personal friend, and still I felt as if I had walked into an attack. The shouting included statements such as: "We will not be silenced!" and continued at loud volume despite the person at the mike trying to calm things down. I felt tears spring to my eyes as once again I realized that activists will never gain ground when such infighting occurs.
It crossed my mind that perhaps these people had been paid or otherwise encouraged by some faction of the State - by the police or political leaders - to cause disruption. After all, the government regularly enacts policies and actions that try to stifle dissent. It was shocking to me to think that other people trying to make positive changes in the world would use bullying tactics against other activists just because of disagreements. The hostility, anger and hatred were palpable and as usual when I'm around violence - even just verbal violence, I felt upset. I also felt anger - because the women who were shouting that _they_ would not be silenced, were using bullying tactics to silence others. At one point, one of the angry women shouted out a personal attack against one of the panelists who's only "crime" was to write an article that offered an opinion that was different from the opinion shared by the group of women. Why would these women feel justified in using tactics of oppression? Were any of the panelists perpetrators of actual abuse? How is writing an article which did not include derogatory statements but rather contained civil polite language examining a particular issue become fodder for hatred and verbal abuse?
Why would the women feel so threatened? Apparently, the women are survivors of abuse. As a female who grew up in an abusive home, I recognize that such anger comes from deep pain and fear - but taking it out on someone else is not okay. I had to work very hard to heal from my childhood - to not let fear and anger consume me - and to not allow my pain and anger to drive me into becoming abusive. I believe that these young women have several unresolved psychological and emotional issues that they are using to manipulate others. Encouraging victim mentality is not healthy - it doesn't help the person heal or learn from their experiences. It sucks, but unfortunately, victims of abuse are not entitled to special rights but rather have to take it upon themselves, hopefully with the help of well trained and compassionate psycho-therapists, to heal and learn healthy coping skills. Becoming abusive yourself because you were once abused only keeps the cycle of abuse alive, destroys your health and destroys society. All negative behavior stems from some form of abuse, neglect - some lack or deprivation during one's early years such that it prevented healthy physical, psychological and emotional development.
Becoming assertive and confronting (politely) wrongs and mistreatment is a healthy thing. But too many people define aggression as assertiveness. What happened in that room Saturday was definitely aggression - definitely verbal abuse. It was not a knee-jerk reaction which would have been somewhat understandable while still being inappropriate, but rather this was an action that was planned. Was there not one person in that group of women who saw how irrational and abusive such behavior would be? Being a survivor of abuse does not entitle you to commit abuse yourself. And yes, speech can be violent. What happened to safer space policies? How is it creating a safe space - a space in which issues can rationally and intelligently be discussed without intimidation to repeatedly shout such that the panelists could not present their information? How is it that this group of young women thought that only they have the right to present a certain opinion?
It is only the insecure person who feels so threatened, so intimidated by a difference of opinion. It isn't as if any of panelists - to my knowledge - held positions of power such that their opinions could become new legislation. Such loud shouting might be a good tactic in a street protest or before a government body, because definitely ordinary citizens have no voice in government decisions. How were the women being silenced? They would have had a chance to offer their differing opinions in this panel discussion and/or at some other presentation, perhaps one that they would arrange themselves. They would have had a chance to participate in a polite, intelligent, mature manner, but instead they chose to silence the panelists one of whom told them that he did not feel safe and so the police were coming.
What a great delight it must have been for the police to see activists disrupting other activists and to learn that the shouting stopped what most likely would have been an intelligent, informative discussion - a discussion that might have helped social movement progress. You could argue that the panelists could have remained and gave the presentation anyway, but very few people in the audience would have been able to hear them over the shouting women and most people in the audience would have felt uncomfortable and concerned about their own safety.
The panelists left the room. It seemed to be a wise move. The hatred spewing from the young women was indeed hate speech that could have lead to physical violence. I saw one young woman shaking as she shouted. Such shaking could have indicated a high level of negative emotion which can lead to violence. (I entertained the thought that maybe, just maybe, a small part of her was struggling with her behavior - trying to tell her that it was not okay.)
Activists should never try to prevent the discussion of theories and ideas but rather encourage all people to use and develop critical thinking skills. The shouting tactics used in a room at a college - a place of higher learning - was, in my opinion, unconscionable. Several people were shocked and distressed by such behavior. It saddens me that people claiming to want societal change would adopt the mentality and tactics of the corrupt and abusive powermongers. Such dysfunctional behavior is the reason that I no longer am an activist. The problems in government are severe - America is an oligarchy - and many people suffer the oppression of the corporate and military government. The government will not relinquish power easily but rather it will take a massive civilian movement to make any kind of meaningful changes. Such a movement means that activists must join together - work together - stop the infighting. To do that, I believe that each individual activist must engage in compassionate, healthy self-examination and, if necessary, seek professional help with unresolved issues that get in the way of being able to work toward healthy positive societal change. Activists don't need to strive for perfection but rather identifying their own problematic issues and learning healthy coping skills would enable them - even if they are survivors of abuse - to work with others - even those with whom they disagree -- to enact positive healthy changes. Healthy change is not going to come from a position of hostile, irrational, negative emotion.
It probably felt powerful to shout and shut down the discussion. Police officers feel powerful when they use excessive force on protestors. Why would activists want to adopt that same unhealthy mentality? And most especially to aim aggression at another activist who merely wrote an article?
Essentially the young women were fostering censorship and violating the panelists' free speech rights. The State does that enough, must activists take on the tactics and mentality of the power hungry State? The women apparently argue that even the discussion of certain issues is a patriarchal mechanism but somehow they didn't see their shouting and verbal abuse as such a mechanism. If abuse is wrong, it's wrong for everyone including survivors of abuse. You can heal from abuse. You can take awareness of your pain into compassion for yourself and others. I'm sorry that these young women are in pain and I hope that some day they will be able to heal and move on to healthier, happier mentalities. The women will gain no sympathy for their movement with such aggressive hostile energy and might eventually destroy themselves. They are allowing the abuse they suffered to keep them in a position of suffering. Even labeling themselves as survivors of abuse, serves to keep them in a suffering victim status.
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