Of all the people to protest, it was Josh Blackman. Of all the law schools, it was CUNY. It’s not Harvard, where the elite students can afford their childish indulgences before they set off on the great adventure of Biglaw bonuses. You see, CUNY has branded itself a “public interest” law school, which is the nice way of saying they aren’t the best and brightest, and won’t have jobs when they graduate. The slogan, “students who couldn’t get admitted anywhere else” isn’t a great marketing tool.
This isn’t to say that the lawyers they produce won’t be good lawyers, even excellent lawyers. It doesn’t take genius to be a good lawyer, but hard work and dedication. There is absolutely no reason why CUNY law students couldn’t excel. But for themselves.
It was a talk about free speech on campus. Josh was invited. Some students, however, didn’t want him to speak and instead wanted him to know he was unwelcome.
The best answer to “why Josh” seems to be that these students were knee-jerk antagonistic to anyone, any idea, that wasn’t theirs. Children do this, which makes it all the more ironic that when they were finally shut down by an administrator, one protester responded, “we’re not children. You can’t talk to us like that.” Children say that, too.
During one exchange between Josh and a protester, the student responded “Fuck the law.” For many, myself included, this was one of those moment where the future of the profession seems doomed. These aren’t mere activists, or undergrads full of passion who are easily swept up in their emotions. These are law students.
They are protesting a particularly civil and thoughtful law professor who’s barely out of law school himself (despite having just been awarded tenure at South Texas Law School, congrats, Josh). He’s no Milo. His writings don’t carry the baggage, even if its entirely misunderstood by the little darlings, of Charles Murray. No Ann Coulter either. And, for anyone not paying attention, he was invited to speak. And so he began.
A few students in attendance clapped as I began to speak. “Well thank you very much to CUNY for having me,” I said. In unison, they yelled out, “CUNY is not having you.” “You are not welcome.” Another shouted out something about “white men and those who support white supremacy.”
An African-American student who was attending the event replied, “I am not white.” A protestor, holding a sign that said “Josh Blackman is not welcome here and neither is the Fed Society” asked, “then why are you here? Why aren’t you with us?”
It wasn’t that the black student was there as a supporter, but as a listener.
The African-American student I mentioned earlier said, “I don’t support this guy” but “I want to hear him speak.” The protestors tried to shame him for attending. He continued, “I want to ask him a very hard question. And we should all try to ask him very hard questions. Like about the notion of legal objectivity.” Sensing the event had taken a different direction, I said, “Let’s talk about that.” The protestors then heckled and shouted over the student asking the question.
The ironic point here is that the protesters, confusing their ignorance and emotion for that of others, not only sought to turn an invited guest into an unwelcome one by pushing their heckling into someone else’s function, but refused to comprehend that they harassed the black student for not being them.
“[T]hen why are you here? Why aren’t you with us?”
This glaring delusion struck me as more significant than the facially offensive “fuck the law.” Was this student not allowed to be willing to listen? Was he a traitor to his race to want to hear, to question, to challenge? Who were these woke protesters to deny this African American law student his right to attend this presentation and hear what Josh Blackman had to say? Who are the racists?
Eric Turkewitz, who is an old-school liberal like so many of us who are now right of center in the eyes of the woke, brought up the fact that these CUNY students are facing an uphill battle to feed their inchoate families.
Is this what they learn at CUNY Law? That if you don’t like the arguments or positions of another you scream and yell and have a tantrum?
Does anyone think this is good training for lawyers?
What would a judge think of such lawyers? What would clients think?
I suspect the students would respond that they will change the legal world to be as woke as they are, with a future of only righteousness. Their righteousness, because they are, if nothing else, entirely righteous in their own hearts. How could anyone not be on their side?
The other side of the question is how could anyone have taught them to be so myopic, or allowed them to squander their time and money when they lacked the intellect and maturity to see any view other than their own?
Is their training so shoddy that they don’t grasp there are differences of opinion on how a law or the constitution is read? Do they understand that certain things are inherently subject to interpretation, such as “unreasonable” search and seizure or “cruel and unusual” punishments?
Remember, this isn’t Harvard Law, where the elite can play white knight to their hearts’ content, knowing that they will soon don the blue pinstripes and rep ties that entitle them to earn more than their parents ever dreamed of.
And this is a public interest law school? What public interest group would want lawyers so terrified of their opponents that they feel the need to shout them down?
Have you ever met a client, lawyer or judge who felt such behavior was persuasive to make a point? Have any friends or family ever thought that shouting someone down was persuasive argument?
It’s not a question of whether their political views are right or wrong, although they were bizarrely misdirected at Josh Blackman, no provocateur he. It’s a question of why these students weren’t taught to be more effective and persuasive in their methods than acting like spoiled brats. Then again, that may be the one thing they have in common with Harvard law students. That and not giving a damn about the black kid who wanted to listen, but got shamed instead.