The First Amendment, white supremacy and IUP students

An opinion

March for Our Lives, Washington, D.C., March 24, 2018. Photo courtesy Getty Images.

March for Our Lives, Washington, D.C., March 24, 2018. Courtesy Getty Images.

By David Loomis

INDIANA — Power to the students. They are once again in the vanguard of social and political change. On Saturday, March 24, they were leading March for our Lives rallies at venues far-flung and near-by.

Their numbers and their eloquence exhibit the pressure they are applying to the bleeding wounds of U.S. gun violence. It is producing results.

On the day of the marches, The Indiana Gazette, in the heart of small-town Pennsylvania, home to voters who “cling to guns,” according to Barack Obama’s famously infamous 2008 description, published on its front page an Associated Press story headlined, “Poll: Support soars for gun control.”

The militantly middle-of-the-road AP reported that the new nationwide poll, conducted March 14-19, in collaboration with the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago, found 69 percent of Americans want stricter gun laws, up from 61 percent recorded a month before the 2016 election. The new poll reports that 54 percent of gun owners also want stricter gun laws, and so do 50 percent of Republicans.

Even the U.S. Congress has been moved, and so has President Donald Trump, who signed into law last week a congressional spending bill that opens the door to research by the Centers for Disease Control on “the causes of gun violence.” (The National Rifle Association attacked the student marchers.)

In the marketplace of ideas, the students are selling something increasingly attractive. The marketplace metaphor long has dominated U.S. Supreme Court decisions in First Amendment free-speech cases. The marketplace works when ideas grapple, truth emerges and society benefits. Students’ peaceful, reformist gun-control message is a hot item at an Easter sale. The marketplace of ideas is working.


JUST IN TIME. Coming soon to IUP are two opportunities for students to shop the marketplace of ideas and make a difference right here.

Moshe Baran, Holocaust survivor, is scheduled to speak at Indiana University of Pennsylvania on April 9. Photo courtesy of Jewish Link of New Jersey.

The opportunities arrive April 9, when the university’s Six O’Clock Series will host Holocaust survivor Moshe Baran, a Russian Jew who describes his survival during the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941-1945. Baran speaks widely and writes about it on his blog “Language Can Kill.”

“Messages of hate permeate our media,” Baran writes. “The internet has enabled instantaneous and world-wide delivery of the words that become bullets.  Our young people are absorbing these messages, and some of them are moved to translate the words into violent acts.”

A second message will come later the same evening, when Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA,  is scheduled to speak here, invited by his group’s new IUP campus chapter. Originally scheduled to speak on the IUP campus at the Eberly Auditorium, Kirk’s event was moved off campus to the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex after citizens last month warned borough council members about hate speech and violence associated with TPUSA and its founder.

Brandon Uhalik is president of the IUP chapter of Turning Point USA, a group that says it advocates “free speech, free markets and limited government.” This photo is a screen shot of a 2017 social media post.

Representatives of the IUP chapter denied the charges. Meanwhile, an image of the chapter president wearing a Trump tank top, gripping a Yuengling and bearing the caption “It’s okay to be white” circulated on social media.

So, twice in the same evening next month speakers will bring to IUP messages that orbit around ideas of white supremacy.

On one hand is Moshe Baran’s testimony about the white supremacy of the Third Reich. On the other is Charlie Kirk’s message about – what? How will he respond to the racism that critics, including some among his membership, allege he and his organization harbor?


POWER TO IUP STUDENTS to attend to these competing messages in the local marketplace of ideas and to translate the words into nonviolent action.

David Loomis is editor of The HawkEye. 


A public discussion: The First Amendment and the Public University, April 5

On April 5, the Indiana University of Pennsylvania chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists will host a public forum on “The First Amendment and the Public University.”

The community is invited. Admission is free. An audience question-and-answer session is scheduled.

Who: A panel will discuss free speech, free press and other First Amendment guarantees in the public sphere of a university such as IUP. Panelists will include:

Frank LoMonte, former executive director of the Student Press Law Center in Washington, D.C., current director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida, where he is a faculty member  in its journalism department. He is an attorney and a former award-winning investigative journalist.

— Michelle S. Fryling, IUP executive director of communications and media relations.

— Christopher T. Hayes, editor in chief of the IUP student newspaper The Penn.

— Logan R. Hullinger, staff reporter for The HawkEye.

David Loomis, faculty member in the IUP journalism department and editor of The HawkEye, will moderate.

Where: Indiana University of Pennsylvania, north end of the campus in the Hadley Union Building,  Susquehanna Room

When: Thursday, April 5, 2018, 5-6:30 p.m.

Questions? Contact Dr. Loomis: phone 724-357-2742 or -4411; email

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