I did indeed and have been heartened by additional calls objecting to the kind of offensive hate speech in which Adams regularly engages.
But I won’t be disrupting his talk tonight because I know my history, because I’ve studied Adams’s playbook, and because my students are brave.
I know my history. Social change theorists have observed one thing again and again. Successful movements — whether from the left or right — thrive on public controversy. The more reactive they can make their opponents, the more publicity and sympathy they receive. Disrupting Adams talk while it is in progress gives him exactly what he wants.
I’ve studied Adams’s playbook. For the past six months I’ve either been preparing for or in the midst of teaching a class on the history of and strategies for defeating white supremacy. Mike Adams and those he represents have used public controversy with increasing effectiveness to advance their agenda. They will take any platform they can get. Once they have it, as in the case of tonight’s lecture, it only serves their purposes to attempt to shut them down.
My students are brave. It is a certainty that Adams will say offensive things tonight. Again, it is what he does to advance his cause. Students in the classes I teach, however, have made clear that their efforts will not be in the least bit curtailed by what Adams says or doesn’t say. They have already set their goals and begun to make plans to undermine the white supremacy, misogyny, and xenophobia that Adams represents. They are focused. They are brave. They are looking way beyond what happens tonight on our campus.
Those committed to the principles of democracy, inclusion, and equity on our campus and the broader Missoula community may disagree on the best strategies for responding to someone like Adams. I’m always clear that I have only a partial truth — at best. But my interlocutor this morning asked a good question. It deserves a better answer than I first provided. For what it is worth, here it is.