Protesting Free Speech By Attacking Monologuist

This is just not cool.

Gothamist reports that eighty-seven members of a Christan group disrupted a performance by monologuist Mike Daisey (“Invincible Summer” at American Repertory Theatre) by walking out during it all at once. And one of them poured water on his script, effectively destroying Daisey’s original outline for the show.

For his part, Mike Daisey handled this incident extremely well (there is a link below to a video), and his blog entry about it is moving. Here are a couple excerpts:
And it wounded me in my heart, because I trusted these people. Scared parents and scared teachers running from a theater because words might hurt them, and so consumed by fear that they have to lash out at the work, literally break it apart, drown it. They've made me afraid of my audience, afraid of my craft, just the smallest amount, and that's the trust I will have to relearn tonight and every night. That's the work--the only way out is through, I tell my students, and it is true for me and it is true for everybody.
Daisey finishes with this:
But they are not simply fools and idiots--I saw them. They are young and old, they are teachers and students, they are each and every one of us. We are the same family, even if it hurts. The hard truth is that you reap what you sow, and I will not sow hatred and discontent--I refuse. I will not forget what that man, older than I am today, did to my work. I will not forget the cowed silence of those who left. I will not forget their judgment and their arrogance--but I will not hate.

I will listen. I will listen and learn and remember what has passed here, and when I tell it back it will be louder and longer and clearer. When I tell it back there will be place in the story for you and you and even you.
What’s infuriating and wrong about this has absolutely nothing to do with the beliefs of the group that walked out. They could have been Jewish, atheist, liberal, conservative - they could have been anything at all. But what they did is not free speech. It is not in the spirit of anything good. It was a deliberate, coordinated attack on someone else’s freedom. Their act was not one of dissent, it was of disruption and destruction. The freedom of speech guarantees others the right to speak against things they disagree with, but that’s not what happened here. They came to this event - paid for it, even - with the sole intention of leaving and of disrupting the event so it might not continue. When anyone does this - I don’t care if it’s for something I believe in - I cannot support their actions. Because they are hostile.

Why couldn’t a single member of the group have told Daisey why they were leaving? Why couldn’t they have had the courage to exercise their own free speech, rather than stopping Daisey from exercising his? Why, why, why, why, why did one gentleman feel the need to destroy Daisey’s script - his property? This is out of line, no matter what Daisey was talking about. No matter what.

Scream, yell, argue, preach, or set up your own event where you can scream, yell, argue, and preach to a supportive audience. Do not sabotage someone else’s exercise of freedom. Do not sabotage someone’s art. Do not sabotage someone’s for-pay event as though you bought the right to. You don’t. If you don’t like it, leave. And afterwards, maybe, civilly, approach him and talk about things. Get your own audience and talk about things. At the very least, have the dignity to respond to the person whose show you wrecked when he asks why.

Or, seriously, don’t buy a damn ticket next time. Please. Exercise your right to ignore. If you aren’t going to at least try to listen to something you disagree with, if you can’t be bothered to open your mind to different ways of thinking, then please don’t deliberately put yourself in the position to hear these things.

I’d prefer you try to stretch a little. But if you can’t, don’t waste your money. Don’t waste your time.


Video of the event on YouTube