Rantz: Spitting, cussing Seattle progressives couldn’t stop homeless panel

Jun 20, 2019, 5:56 AM | Updated: 6:50 am

A small group of extremists tried to stop a homelessness panel at the University of Washington this week. They failed, but they definitely tried their best.

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The event, sponsored by the UW College Republicans and King County Republicans, featured two panels of experts and commentators, followed by an audience Q&A. KIRO Radio host John Curley moderated; I was on the first panel. Not everyone wanted it to go on as planned.

Prior to the event, a group of about 20 or so activist showed up with signs asking us to “stop the war on homeless” and calling out some of the panelists. I spoke with a number of them to hear their take. Some, I would end up inviting on my show.

A group of social workers distributed fliers with panelist bios that they wrote. For me, I was described as “a fear-mongering reactionary who regularly writes for the Daily Wire, “led by the incomparable Ben Shapiro.” I’ve published maybe four stories on the Daily Wire and I admittedly found it amusing that they compared me to the only other conservative Jew that they could think of.

This group explained to me, before realizing who I was, that they were looking to have a conversation about the issues. This isn’t the way to have a conversation. Still, I invited them in and told them to ask questions during the Q&A.

Once the event began, in front of roughly 150 people, a number of protesters immediately stood up and started to yell and cuss at the panel.

One angry man shouted “housing is a human right” as he was escorted out.

A livid woman yelled “Get the [expletive] out of my city!” as if Seattle is her city and not ours.

When audience members asked her to respect the right to have the panel and engage in a dialogue, she said “You don’t come to a [expletive] university if you don’t want to hear what young people have to say about these issues.”

I would have loved to hear what she had to say, but all she was doing was yelling expletives, trying to drown out a conversation. Ironically, she’s the one who doesn’t want to hear what people have to say.

The woman’s companion defended her by saying, “hate speech is not free speech.”

Not that there was any hateful speech at the event, but hate speech is, in fact, free speech. He actually means speech that he doesn’t like isn’t free speech. Again, it is.

Once UW police arrived and escorted these people out, the event went on with limited interruptions until the Q&A where a woman claiming to be a professor asked a question before immediately walking out, flipping a panelist the middle finger. Another woman, before walking out, spit at the stage like the classless clown that she is.

Still, we were there for almost three hours talking about the issues. I agreed with some folks on the panel, disagreed at times, too. I also took positions that many of the protesters in the audience seemed to agree with (a general policy of housing-first models for some, treatment on demand for others, etc.).

Much to his surprise, the activist who called me a “fear-mongering reactionary” agreed with some points I made, and apologized for the flier. It turns out when you listen to people you assume you’ll disagree with, you actually might find some common ground. A UW researcher and professor chatted with me afterwards, with some disagreement on what we all discussed, but thanked me for a willingness to engage, acknowledging that folks she agrees with sometimes go way too far to silence opposition.

The disinformation strategy

Finding common ground with your perceived enemy — a perception based solely on ideology — terrifies some of these people informed by an entire world view that labels their political opponents fascist, nefarious actors intent on keeping people on the streets.

There is an active strategy to silence opposition. They’re small, but active; a group of professional activists that seem to present equal-parts martyrdom-complex and histrionic personality disorder. They’re the ones employing the heckler’s veto, but somehow they’re the victims when escorted out.

Ahead of the event, musician and activist Spekulation, who had a recent visit by the Secret Service for his unhinged comments about President Donald Trump, asked people to send fake RSVPs to the event, so we wouldn’t fill up the auditorium. He claimed this was a boycott. No. It was attempted sabotage.

After their failed attempts to silence, they turn to their Twitter echo chamber to poke fun at the event, cheer on the disruptions, present intellectually dishonest recaps of what happened and troll whomever they can.

Housing activist Laura Loe, who promotes de-platforming people she disagrees with, claimed that Discovery Institute researcher Christopher Rufo “backed out” of the panel to go on Tucker Carlson Tonight, “and say he was bullied to not be on the panel … it’s all an elaborate game of smoke and mirrors.”

That didn’t happen. The discussion on FOX News didn’t mention the panel — or any bully attempts — at any point during the three minute interview. Loe is a liar, but she knows she doesn’t need facts on her side. This is about pushing an agenda to try to stop her perceived political opponents from gaining momentum.

An activist blogger, who popped in and out of the discussion, sought to diminish the panel because she disagrees with some of the panelists. She made only a passing mention of the protesters interrupting the event, but did quote an activist labeling the event a “Klan rally.”

She erroneously called Curley an a.m. radio host (she frequently misidentifies the stations hosts here work for) and quoted him saying: “You can’t have a relationship [with a homeless client] when you’re a social worker. My ex-wife is a social worker … there’s no relationship.”

This is out of context and dramatically changes what he said.

Curley had just recounted a story from a worker with Union Gospel Mission who spent two years working with a homeless woman to foster a close-enough relationship where he was able to find out she had family back in Arizona who had no idea where she went. It was a success story after putting in two year’s worth of work, which you can do when you’re not working with an insane number of clients.

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What he actually said: “Government can’t do that. There is no way. You talk about relationships? You can’t have a relationship when you’re a social worker. My ex-wife is a social worker. She had 57 clients. There’s no relationship. It’s going through a series, and making sure, checking here, looking there, and making sure you’re getting your drug, and where else… next person through. How can we ever create a system where it is about relationships? Because I think that is the solution.”

He was arguing social workers are overworked, which I thought we could all agree on. You can watch it here around the 52 minute mark.

The activist blogger then claimed the folks in the audience that didn’t agree with our “unanimous tough-love narrative” were “quickly shouted down.” The blogger is good at quoting things out of context, but even better at not quoting statements that dispute her revisionist history.

When an audience member proposed a “tough love” solution, I immediately said, “What I don’t think is helpful is talking about people who are out on the streets, in many cases through no fault of their own, and not at least offer as much help as humanly possible.”

I also said that “every person on the streets has a different background and requires a different type of intervention.” I endorsed a housing first model, tiny home villages, treatment on demand, and plans to connect homeless people with city jobs. That’s not tough love; they’re interventions that data suggests actually work.

It is true that some people in the audience were shouted at — the shouts were to ask a question, instead of offering a several minutes-long monologue when there were many people in line waiting to ask questions at an event that was behind schedule because of the earlier protests.

Finally, the blogger claimed there were “zero experts” present. It was a talking point some of the protesters made. It’s verifiably false.

Terry Pallas was there. He’s the chief program officer for Seattle Union Gospel Mission who actually works with the homeless. Providing his expertise on the political approach to the problem was former state Senator Mark Miloscia, who authored the Homeless Housing Act. An expert on the intersection of homelessness, addiction and policing, Seattle Police Officers Guild vice president Mike Solan was there.

It’s not so much that activists were upset with the expertise of some of the panelists; they simply don’t agree with their conclusions. That’s fine by me. They’re free to participate in the discussion, rather than troll. They’re also free to host their own event, with handpicked panelists that represents views they support. And here’s a benefit of them doing it: Conservatives won’t show up to disrupt the event.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Rantz: Spitting, cussing Seattle progressives couldn’t stop homeless panel