Heckle: To Disconcert with Questions, Challenges, or Gibes

28 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2017 Last revised: 8 Nov 2017

See all articles by Jeremy Waldron

Jeremy Waldron

New York University School of Law

Date Written: June 17, 2017


Can a case be made for permitting, encouraging and protecting the activity of heckling? Heckling has the effect of disconcerting speakers and preventing them from the presentation of their speech on exactly the terms that they have planned. And that is actually the purpose and the value of heckling. At a time when political choreography dominates public speech, it is a good idea to encourage modes of speech and interaction that do not require a passive audience sitting still to attend to speech on exactly the speaker's own terms. Heckling can be viewed through the lens of suppression of speech, disruption, and the potential for violence ("the heckler's veto"); or it can be viewed through the lens of lively exchange and a more interactive understanding of free speech values. This paper takes the latter perspective, and uses it to analyze and evaluate campus speech issues and questions such as the relation between speakers' rights and listeners' rights.

Keywords: Campus Speech, First Amendment, Free Speech, Heckler's Veto, Heckling, Marketplace of Ideas, Mill, Political Choreography, Public Security, Speech

Suggested Citation

Waldron, Jeremy, Heckle: To Disconcert with Questions, Challenges, or Gibes (June 17, 2017). NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 17-42, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3054555 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3054555

Jeremy Waldron (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

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