"Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?"
Stanford's latest free speech fiasco
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By now you’ve likely heard about the latest fiasco at the national embarrassment known as Stanford University, but I believe this subject still warrants further attention. Incidents like this are becoming increasingly normal as the Left indoctrinates students to believe that free speech is a right-wing value that mustn’t be permitted.
A brief summary is in order.
The Stanford Federalist Society invited Judge Duncan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to speak on campus. However, liberal students, including members from the National Lawyer’s Guild, decided that was intolerable. Not because of what Duncan had come to discuss (“The Fifth Circuit in Conversation with the Supreme Court: Covid, Guns, and Twitter”), but because he represented clients and advanced arguments the protesters hate. One particular judicial decision by Duncan that had the protestors foaming at the mouth was U.S. v. Varner, in which a convicted pedophile petitioned the court to be called by feminine pronouns. As Duncan’s opinion explained, federal courts can’t control what pronouns people use. The Stanford protesters saw it differently: His opinion had “denied a transwoman’s existence.”1
According to lawyer turned legal writer David Lat, “[a]pproximately 100 protesters lined up outside the event to boo those who entered, with some students calling out individual classmates—e.g., ‘Shame, John Smith’—à la Cersei’s Walk of Atonement on Game of Thrones. Another 50 to 70 students came into the room where the event took place, compared to about 20 FedSoc students (if that). The protesters carried signs reading “RESPECT TRANS RIGHTS,” “FEDSUCK,” “BE PRONOUN NOT PRO-BIGOT,” and “JUDGE DUNCAN CAN’T FIND THE CLIT” (among others), along with trans-rights flags.”
Once inside, rather than engaging with Duncan and advancing arguments of their own, this horde of crybullies shouted him down and made it impossible for him to be heard. Among the insults hurled at Duncan was “We hope your daughters get raped!” and “You couldn’t get into Stanford!” One male student said, “I fuck men, I can find the prostate. Why can’t you find the clit?”
Let’s just pause here a moment and reflect on the fact that these are our future “officers of the court,” politicians, and gatekeepers who will soon have real-world power and be charged with the rule of law, upon which American prosperity and liberty depend. We should all fear for the institutions they’ll infect with their rot. It’s nothing less than astounding that these law school students see it fit to trample all over the First Amendment because they wholeheartedly believe that free speech — in this case, the arguments of an Appellate Court Judge — is “harmful” and akin to “violence.”
These soft, solipsistic, spoiled imbeciles would make Mother Teresa depressed. They increasingly demand ideological and emotional safety, and they’ve demonstrated a growing penchant for using authoritarian tactics to obtain it. As First Amendment attorney and journalist Alex Morey has pointed out, the widespread popularity of campus “equity” initiatives has resulted in calls for tolerance by means of intolerance reaching a fever pitch—of which the shoutdown at Stanford is a perfect example.
And this intolerance affects more than just guest speakers. Speech that strays from a certain progressive orthodoxy is often chilled by threat of ostracization and even punishment. A 2023 survey of nearly 45,000 students found that over 60% fear “damaging their reputations” if they speak their minds and that they “feel uncomfortable…expressing an unpopular opinion” to professors or peers. A similar survey of faculty found that a third of professors describe themselves as self-censoring “often.”
When censorship/de-platforming doesn’t work, a shocking number of these sophomoric morons are willing to resort to violence. According to a recent Buckley Institute report, over 40% of college students said they viewed physical violence2 as an acceptable way to stop “hate speech” or “racially charged comments” on campus.3
This is what happens when kids are raised by helicopter parents, on soft-surface playgrounds, and then taught in schools with “safe spaces” where they don’t have to hear things they don’t want to. It’s the pussification of an entire generation, and it will come back to haunt America. It already is.
What makes the recent shit show at Stanford all the more egregious is what happened when Duncan asked the five administrators present at his talk to get the children to shut up so he could actually speak. Stanford’s stated policy on free speech holds that:
It is a violation of University policy for a member of the faculty, staff, or student body to:
Prevent or disrupt the effective carrying out of a University function or approved activity, such as lectures, meetings, interviews, ceremonies, the conduct of University business in a University office, and public events.
The administrators at the event knew this. Yet, it was only after Duncan pleaded that something be done that one actually stepped forward. Enter: the now ignominious Tirien Steinbach, associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion (because of course).
Duncan asked Steinbach to tell the protestors that their behavior was infantile and to stop heckling so he could actually speak. Steinbach did no such thing. Instead, she pulled out a folder, took out a printed sheaf of papers, and delivered six minutes of prepared remarks in which she chastised Duncan and pretentiously asked “Is the juice worth the squeeze?”
There’s a full video of this, but I must warn you that it’s enough to make your blood boil, what with the children yelling “Your racism is showing!” and “Respect black women!” as Steinbach steps forward with all the self-importance befitting a DEI commissar.
In the course of her sermon, Steinbach paid lip service to Stanford’s policy on free speech. But she questioned several times whether the policy was appropriate and should be reconsidered, showing zero understanding of free-speech principles. Not only that, but she seized the platform to absurdly claim that Duncan “literally denies the humanity of people,” and posited that it was incumbent upon him to only offer remarks valuable enough to offset the harm that his mere presence was inflicting on Stanford. She concluded her lecture with, “I look out and I don’t ask, ‘What’s going on here?’ I look out and I say, ‘I’m glad this is going on here.’”4
Duncan purportedly tried to continue with the event, but the disruptions persisted. It got so bad that he had to be escorted out by federal marshals.
Two days later, Stanford’s president and Dean Jenny Martinez issued a joint letter of apology to Duncan for the disruption of his event in violation of Stanford’s policies on free speech. On March 22, Martinez followed up with a long letter to Stanford students reiterating that the disruption of the event violated Stanford’s policies. In her letter, she revealed that Steinbach had been placed on leave and pointedly observed:
[W]hen a disruption occurs and the speaker asks for an administrator to help restore order, the administrator who responds should not insert themselves into debate with their own criticism of the speaker’s views and the suggestion that the speaker reconsider whether what they plan to say is worth saying, for that imposes the kind of institutional orthodoxy and coercion that the policy on Academic Freedom precludes. For that reason, I stand by my statement in the apology letter that at the event on March 9, “staff members who should have enforced university policies failed to do so, and instead intervened in inappropriate ways that are not aligned with the university’s commitment to free speech.”
The little wannabe Maoists didn’t like that Martinez apologized:5
“Free speech isn’t easy or comfortable,” she says, but “it’s necessary for democracy, and I was glad it was happening at our law school.” But, quite obviously, she wasn’t. Indeed, the morning before Duncan’s talk, Steinbach sent out an email in which she explicitly criticized his political views—one of several elements that led to a mob of students getting together to disrupt the event.
As you can see from the title of her op-ed, she’s trying to hold two competing positions at once. On the one hand, she argues that free speech and diversity can coexist (sure, as long as free speech is given primacy); on the other, she asks whether full-on free speech is really worth the reasons it’s become policy (“Is the juice worth the squeeze?”).
She makes several attempts to whitewash her role in the event, going as far as to suggest that she favors free speech and demonstrated as much at the event:
. . .I welcomed Judge Duncan to speak while supporting the right of students to protest within the bounds of university policy.
As a member of the Stanford Law School administration—and as a lawyer—I believe that we should strive for authentic free speech. We must strive for an environment in which we meet speech—even that with which we strongly disagree—with more speech, not censorship.
What the hell is “authentic free speech”? That must mean there’s such a thing as “inauthentic free speech.” She seems to be implying that Duncan’s remarks, if expressed, wouldn’t have been considered authentic free speech because they’d be “harmful.”
She then claims to have stepped up to the podium in order to “de-escalate the situation,” which anyone who’s seen the video knows is a flat-out lie:
As soon as Judge Duncan entered the room, a verbal sparring match began to take place between the judge and the protesters. By the time Judge Duncan asked for an administrator to intervene, tempers in the room were heated on both sides.
I stepped up to the podium to deploy the de-escalation techniques in which I have been trained, which include getting the parties to look past conflict and see each other as people. My intention wasn’t to confront Judge Duncan or the protesters but to give voice to the students so that they could stop shouting and engage in respectful dialogue. I wanted Judge Duncan to understand why some students were protesting his presence on campus and for the students to understand why it was important that the judge be not only allowed but welcomed to speak.
First of all, the “verbal sparring match” was initiated by the infants. Duncan, to his credit, appears extraordinarily restrained in the video, considering the circumstances. He’s not “sparring.” Secondly, Steinbach did not de-escalate; she instead lectured Duncan about how his presence was “tearing at the fabric of the community” and why he should’ve known better than to show up. She was taking the opportunity to express her own views about Duncan, not de-escalating.
Steinbach then explains what she meant by asking whether “the juice was worth the squeeze”:
At one point during the event, I asked Judge Duncan, “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” I was referring to the responsibility that comes with freedom of speech: to consider not only the benefit of our words but also the consequences. It isn’t a rhetorical question. I believe that we would be better served by leaders who ask themselves, “Is the juice (what we are doing) worth the squeeze (the intended and unintended consequences and costs)?” I will certainly continue to ask this question myself.
That Steinbach will continue to ask this question is yet another reason why Dean Martinez should fire her. In context, “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” means, “Is it worth holding your talk when an unruly mob of petulant purists might show up to indulge in a collective spaz session?” The question is an endorsement and defense of the culture of safetyism that has led these crybullies to believe that they may menace others with impunity, that they may be contemptible toward others while denying them any similar consideration, that they may engage in exactly the sort of behavior they profess to abhor.
In her conclusion, Steinbach states that “How we strike a balance between free speech and diversity, equity and inclusion is worthy of serious, thoughtful and civil discussion.”
But there isn’t a “balance” to be struck between free speech and DEI. This is not, as Steinbach claims, a question of ensuring that “free speech, academic freedom and work to advance diversity, equity and inclusion must coexist in a diverse, democratic society.” Free speech on college campuses must be treated as NON-NEGOTIABLE, not something that must be tempered so as to comport with DEI’s censorship-in-the-name-of-equity imperative. And it’s definitely not Steinbach’s job as DEI commissar to decide whether each person invited to speak at Stanford meets her definitions of “responsibility” or “benefit,” and to encourage the hordes accordingly.
The entire op-ed is a blatant attempt to rewrite what happened, characterizing it as a “heated exchange” in which “[s]ome protesters heckled the judge and peppered him with questions and comments” and Duncan “answered in turn.” She’s trying to make this a two-sided issue by legitimizing the hecklers, casting them as participants in a well-intentioned conversation that went awry. This is laughable. One group in this incident disgraced itself, the other did not. You needn’t be particularly discerning to differentiate between the two.
Lastly, what is to be done about the students who embarrassed themselves, all of whom could serve as a convincing advertisement for birth control? Nothing, apparently. In her memo, Martinez promised to institute “mandatory educational programming for our student body rather than referring specific students for disciplinary sanction” and to blur students’ faces when the university releases video of the event—because obviously they deserve anonymity.
I’m in agreement with Ilya Shapiro, director of constitutional studies at the Manhattan Institute, who was quoted in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed. Shapiro thinks universities need to enforce their policies against hecklers’ vetoes by disciplining those who violate them. Law schools can suspend/expel students and impose career consequences. “They can also report to a bar association,” Shapiro says. “All law schools have to sign off on a character and fitness assessment before a graduate can take the bar exam.” If a student has been “completely disruptive, and has demonstrated that he doesn’t have the character and fitness to be a lawyer, they can be adjudged not fit to sit for the bar exam.”
Seems eminently reasonable to me. Stanford should use all the resources at its disposal to prevent this pernicious form of mob censorship from happening again. Failure to do so sends a message to the Stanford community that those who engage in disruptive conduct are the ones who determine which voices and views are permissible.
If you do read the opinion, you’ll see that it’s not some screed against trans people, but an opinion addressing technical issues of jurisdiction and procedure.
What amazes me is that these crybullies don’t seem to understand that violence works both ways. There are countless videos of progressive spazzes at protests getting physical with people who relish the opportunity to defend themselves and punch rainbow bandanna-wearing imbeciles in the face. The Proud Boys come to mind. They show up specifically in the hopes that progressive fairies get frisky. And this might come as a shock, but people who think words are violence tend not to perform well in physical confrontations.
Note the posters in the picture below that say “counter-speech is free speech” and “we have free speech rights too.” These students weren’t exercising their right to free speech. The First Amendment, whose protections Stanford is bound to extend to students under California’s Leonard Law, does not permit heckler’s vetoes. Substantially disrupting an event isn’t “free speech” or “counter-speech”—it’s censorship. As Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote in Kleindienst v. Mandel, “The freedom to speak and the freedom to hear are inseparable; they are two sides of the same coin. The activity of speakers becoming listeners and listeners becoming speakers in the vital interchange of thought is the means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth.” When hecklers disrupt planned speeches on a university campus, they not only infringe a speaker’s right to deliver their message, but also the rights of anyone in the Stanford community who wishes to receive that message.
What an odd place to publish the op-ed. It would’ve fit perfectly in the New York Times or Washington Post as the bullshit du jour.