We are a little over a month into 2017 and already last year’s disinvitation outlier, Milo Yiannopoulos, has spurred a number of disinvitation attempts and event disruptions (see here, here, here, and here).  Worse still is that violence has erupted at some of these events, including a shooting in Seattle and riots on the University of California’s Berkeley campus.

Given the current confrontational campus climate, part 2 of this blog looks at the actual effectiveness of politically motivated speaker disinvitation attempts. These analyses revealed that speaker disinvitation attempts from 2000 to 2016 came primarily from the left of the speaker and occurred most often for controversies over racial issues, views on sexual orientation, and views on Islam. See part 1, which contains details on what FIRE’s disinvitation database shows about the trends.

As noted in part 1, the variable “success of disinvitation attempt” was modified from its Yes/No format. Two additional categories were created:

  1. Substantial event disruptions were classified into their own category. Thus, they were no longer grouped with successful disinvitations. This was done because during these events, the speaker was not actually disinvited; they were prevented from finishing their remarks.
  1. Unsuccessful attempts to prevent a speaker from finishing their remarks occurred were classified as moderate event disruptions. Examples of moderate event disruptions include loud protesting during the speaker’s remarks, pie-throwing, and pulling a fire alarm while a speaker is speaking.

Before presenting the analyses, it is important to note that FIRE relies on individuals submitting reports of disinvitation attempts to the database. Thus, awareness of FIRE as an organization and their tracking of disinvitation attempts may have increased over time.  Additionally, FIRE’s criteria for classifying submissions may have changed over time. Finally, the characterization of the political motive for a disinvitation attempt is relative to the speaker’s political views.

 

When politically motivated, are disinvitation attempts more likely to come from the left of the speaker or the right of the speaker?

When politically motivated, the majority of disinvitation attempts from 2000 to 2016 came from the left of the speaker, c2(2) = 129.75, p < .001.  The total number of disinvitation attempts by political motive and the percentage of all disinvitation attempts are presented in the table below:

Political Motivation (relative to speaker):Number of Disinvitation Attempts:
From the left200

(60.06%)

From the right102

(30.63%)

Not applicable31

(9.31%)

 


Are certain topics more likely to spur disinvitation attempts from the left of the speaker? From the right of the speaker?

The graph below depicts the total number of politically motivated disinvitation attempts by the type of controversy.  For instance, 26 (of 29) disinvitation attempts over abortion/contraception came from the right of the speaker.  This represented 89.66% of all disinvitation attempts over abortion/contraception.  It was not surprising that the number of disinvitation attempts from the left of the speaker and from the right of the speaker differed depending on the topic of controversy:

Setting aside the category of other political views or positions, disinvitation attempts from the left of the speaker occurred most often for controversies over racial issues, views on sexual orientation, and views on Islam.  Disinvitation attempts from the right of the speaker occurred most often for controversies over abortion/contraception, views on the Israeli-Palestine conflict, and for criminal/other misconduct.

Focusing on the controversial topics that have most often produced disinvitation attempts obscures a larger pattern within the data. Specifically, over 90% of disinvitation attempts over racial issues, views on gender, views on immigration, views on Islam, and local politics from 2000 to 2016 were from the left of the speaker.  Additionally, more than 75% of disinvitation attempts over civil liberties and views on sexual orientation came from the left of the speaker.

In contrast, the only category where disinvitation attempts from the right occurred in such a disproportionate fashion was over the topic of abortion/contraception.  Furthermore, this discrepancy was largely driven by disinvitation attempts occurring at private, religious schools. Of the 29 disinvitation attempts over abortion/contraception 25 of them came from the right of the speaker AND occurred at a private, religious institution such as the University of Notre Dame.

Simply put, disinvitation attempts from 2000 to 2016 came primarily from the left of the speaker.  Furthermore, at private secular institutions, disinvitation attempts came primarily from the left of the speaker (66.98%) rather than from the right of the speaker (26.42%).

 

Has the political motive for disinvitation attempts changed over time?

As noted in part 1, disinvitation attempts from 2000 to 2016 have increased regardless of the political motivation.  The graph below depicts the number disinvitation attempts that have occurred from 2000 to 2016 by political motivation.  As can be seen, speaker disinvitation attempts from the left of the speaker and from the right of the speaker were roughly equal from 2000 to 2009 (except for a spike in activity from the left in 2006). Yet, from 2010 onward there is a noticeable increase in disinvitations attempts from the left of the speaker, relative to disinvitation attempts from the right of the speaker.  This increase took a sharp upturn last year – although as part 1 noted, much of this spike was due to Milo Yiannopoulos.

 

Are disinvitation attempts more successful when the attempt comes from the left of the speaker or the right of the speaker?

Speaker disinvitation attempts have a higher success rate when they come from the right of the speaker (54.64%) than when they come from the left of the speaker (32.89%).

From the leftFrom the rightNot applicable
Successful campaign505317
Unsuccessful campaign1024413

 


If a disinvitation attempt is unsuccessful, are moderate event disruptions more likely to come from the left of the speaker or the right of the speaker?

When a disinvitation attempt is unsuccessful, those opposed to the speaker and/or the speaker’s views may attempt to disrupt the event so the speaker cannot finish their remarks. The tactics employed have included shouting down the speaker during the event, pulling the fire alarm, and (yes, really) pie-throwing.

As noted above, this post considers a moderate event disruption to be an instance when attempts to disrupt the speaker during the course of the remarks are unsuccessful and the speaker, despite the disruptions, is able to finish their remarks.  The table below presents the number of moderate event disruptions that have occurred from 2000 to 2016, by the political motive relative to the speaker.

As can be seen, moderate event disruptions in this time period almost exclusively came from the left of the speaker:

From the leftFrom the rightNot applicable
Moderate event disruption2721

 


If a disinvitation attempt is unsuccessful, are substantial event disruptions more likely to come from the left of the speaker or the right of the speaker?

Finally, a small number of unsuccessful disinvitation attempts have led to instances where the speaker cannot finish their remarks due to protestors shouting threats, throwing rocks, and storming the stage.

From the leftFrom the rightNot applicable
Substantial event disruption2130

As with moderate event disruptions from 2000 to 2016, substantial event disruptions in this time period almost exclusively came from the left of the speaker.

Summary and Conclusions:

  • Speaker disinvitation attempts from 2000 to 2016 were most likely to come from the left of the speaker.
  • These disinvitation attempts from the left occurred most often for controversies over racial issues, views on sexual orientation, and views on Islam.
  • Speaker disinvitations due to issues related to abortion almost exclusively came from the right of the speaker, at religious institutions.
  • Speaker disinvitations due to views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict occurred almost equally from the left of the speaker and from the right of the speaker.
  • With the exception of 2006, the first decade of the new millennia saw a roughly equal number of disinvitation attempts from the left and right of the speaker. Beginning in 2010 an uptick in disinvitation attempts from the left of the speaker has occurred.
  • Disinvitation attempts from the right of the speaker have a higher success rate.
  • When disinvitation attempts are unsuccessful, moderate and substantial event disruptions are almost exclusively from the left of the speaker.

As discussed elsewhere, attempts to censor a speaker because one finds their views abhorrent may ultimately backfire.  Indeed, it is highly likely that Yiannopoulos has been touring college and university campuses for the past year hoping to provoke either a disinvitation and/or a violent protest. The data we report here indicate that Yiannopoulos is riding a wave of heightened activism on the left that began around 2010.


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