Third, as David Frum, Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern point out, judges might decide cases differently when protesters are liable to show up brandishing guns, as happened in Charlottesville. Bad facts make bad law, so the saying goes. The general legal standard now is that if a public college opens itself up to outside speakers, it cannot engage in viewpoint discrimination. Most cases of prior restraint censorship will fail in court under this standard. But in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy in Charlottesville, judges may look differently at these facts.
And that should trouble us: If a court decides in favor of the prior restraints, it could set a precedent that would do considerable harm to the free speech rights of speakers, students and faculty far beyond Spencer.