Knowing Your Audience: Who’s on Twitter? – by Chris Zaccaro

Without question, Twitter is one of the top social media platforms in the United States. Sitting pretty on the top shelf alongside other social titans like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, the real-time, short message communication tool provides a unique and powerful platform to promote businesses/organizations or enhance personal brands and followings.

For proof, see the 2016 Presidential Election.

As many of us know, effective communication means knowing your audience – and in this case, that audience is everyone else clicking on the blue bird icon each day.

Thanks to recent findings from the Pew Research Center, we have a better understanding of the Twitterverse’s current makeup. Here I’ll share with you a quick snapshot of the findings, but for a more in-depth look, be sure to check out Pew’s April article entitled Sizing Up Twitter Users.

“Twitter users are nearly three times as likely to be younger than 50 (73%) as to be 50 or older (27%).” If you’re trying to promote a senior discount or sell a retirement villa, Twitter may not be the place for you. Age is a key demographic to consider when marketing a business, product or yourself.

“Twitter users are younger, more educated and more likely to be Democrats than the general public.” Like age, education is also a key demographic to take into account. For instance, people who have been to college are more likely to read a newspaper or book – which makes Twitter a useful platform if you’re sharing blog content, working within a news outlet, publishing company or any other situation where you’re seeking out an audience that wants to learn more.

“A large majority of tweets come from a small minority of tweeters.” In fact, 80% of all tweets from U.S. users come from only 10% of tweeters. That’s a huge discrepancy! The median user only tweets twice a month. This shows that the vast majority of folks on Twitter are looking for content, rather than providing content. Which is something the heavy tweeters are happy to accommodate because…

You’re more likely to gain followers if you’re more active on the platform and follow others. The top 10% of tweeters have a median number of 387 followers, compared to a median of number of 19 followers for the bottom 90% of tweeters. Those top tweeters, on average, also follow more than six times the amount of people that the bottom 90% do. This could be because they’re so active on Twitter that they want to see everything that’s going on, or they’re taking advantage of good ol’ fashioned Twitter manners: I’ll follow you if you follow me back! This is an old strategy that harkens back to the days of the original 140 character limit, but one that still seems to be working if you’re looking to boost your follower count.

So some interesting data indeed, for a social media platform that each day seems to become more and more indispensable. Here are some tips based on Pew’s findings that may help you in understanding the Twitter audience or boosting your follower count:

• Tweet more often than not to stay relevant
• Know that you’re talking to younger audiences
• Look elsewhere for older audiences
• Twitter is a great platform when looking for folks who want to learn
• Know that the majority of folks on Twitter are Democrats or Progressives
• Follow others within your target audience that you want to follow you
• Know that just because your followers are not tweeting doesn’t mean they’re not watching

Tuesday Tip: No Individual Can Ever Out-Perform a Good Team – by Dan Tapper

The recent victory by the Golden State Warriors over the Houston Rockets in the NBA Western Conference Playoff Semifinals brought to mind a timeless and essential public relations fact – no individual, no matter how great, can beat a good team.

On one side you had James Harden of the Rockets, easily the best scorer in the NBA and at times this year a one-man show for his team. And on the other side you had the two-time defending champion Warriors, the absolute epitome of a true team. A well-oiled machine, if you will.

That the Warriors won the series didn’t surprise many, and one of the reasons comes down to the “individual vs. team” dynamic. And as true as it is in the sports world, it is just as true in the area of strategic communications.

Having the right team in place is the key to every good PR mission, whether you are trying to promote good news or manage bad news. Team players are willing to work together and build consensus, rather than rule by fiat. Team players value pushback as much as they value agreement, because they know it’s the best way to arrive at the best solutions. Team players are confident in their abilities and ideas, but not to the point of shutting out all others.

As an example, we recently had a client which had a major public event to plan and execute, an event which would be noticed and covered heavily by the media. And we created a team, comprised from both our staff and the client’s, to get it done. Everyone on the team had roles – someone was in charge of the legacy media, someone was in charge of social media, someone was in charge of staging and logistics. We had team members who led the way on speech prep for those who would be speaking, and we had other team members who took care of things like registration, flow and everything down to food and beverages. And we met on a regular basis to bring all of these unique abilities together with one common goal in mind. It took a group with single-minded, strategic focus to pull it off, and it’s hard to imagine one individual could have done it all alone.

The result was a major success for the client, and it was all thanks to teamwork. All thanks to – much like in sports – being able to play to the strengths of the individual team member. Teamwork allows for vetting of messages and strategies, and allows for creative, collaborative thought which can lead to outside-the-box solutions. That’s the value of collective thought and talent, rather than just one “lone wolf” trying to go it alone.

And most important, as we often tell our clients, teamwork means support and, most of all, trust. Not everyone has the same strengths and core areas of expertise, but when they are brought together with like-minded people they can depend on, every base can be covered.

Strategic thinkers understand this, just as clearly the Golden State Warriors do. When you have the right team around you, you’ve got to at least like your chances. Very few individuals who compete in the same arena have as a good a shot at success.

Tuesday Tip: Just Say “No” to “No Comment” – by Dan Tapper

I once had a client who questioned the need for people to publicly react to potentially negative stories about them.

“What’s the point?” he asked. “If they just don’t comment, they stay out of the story entirely, instead of commenting and making things worse.”

Is it really that simple? Just refuse comment and you are no longer part of a negative story? As Ernest Hemingway’s Jake Barnes utters in the closing lines of The Sun Also Rises, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

It is pretty, indeed. And sadly, it’s false. This is what I told my friend that day: If you refuse to comment, you are still very much a part of the story. You’re just choosing to not let your side be heard.

It’s a good bet that every journalist in the world has been told “no comment” at least once—I was a reporter for nearly seven years and I likely could have filled a notebook with the number of people who offered me that two-word response or a variation of it.

Reporters shrug when they are told “no comment” and they move on. Frankly, it makes their job a little easier. They offer someone a chance to respond to a certain issue, that person refuses, and now they are free to write the story without that person.

But while reporters shrug when “no comment” is uttered, public relations professionals grimace.

Why? Simple. “No comment” contains no message. It has no strategy. It provides no plan to advocate on one’s own behalf. All it does is surrender any chance at having a say and eliminate any chance at trying to balance a news story.

And even more? It never looks good; rather, it looks evasive and, often times, invites even more questions and more speculation. And that is how things go from bad to worse in the world of public relations.

You may not have all the facts you need to give a fully informed answer. But even a brief response is a better alternative to “no comment,” or a refusal to comment.

Any negative can be bridged into a positive, and even a brief response can provide what you need to communicate your awareness of an incident and the initial steps taken to manage it. For example, in a very general way, it could be something as simple as, “We are aware of the issue and working to gather more information as quickly as possible.” This helps you buy critical time to engage internal experts and support, gather facts and develop your strategy.

So today’s “Tuesday Tip” is as succinct as a “no comment” is meant to be, only it comes with a clear message: it’s always better to have something to say!

The Update That Never Was – by Chris Zaccaro

“My god…it’s happening.”

I said to myself early in the workday Thursday, December 27, 2018. I had glanced over at my Twitter dashboard and saw the most peculiar trends afoot.




The Twitterverse was NOT happy. I jumped across my desk to my charging smartphone and immediately opened my Instagram.

There it was. The “new Instagram.”

As with any change in the Land of Steady Habits – it was horrifying. Rather than scrolling downward through a feed of the usual brunch photos and videos of college kids showing their disappointed parents new drinking tricks during winter break, I was having to swipe left through a horizontal slideshow to view content.

I wasn’t a fan. It was weird looking, awkward and, of course, very different. I met my lady friend before Tinder and Bumble became a thing, so my swiping motion wasn’t seasoned either.

But really one of the first things that came to mind was how this new feed looked remarkably like an Instagram Story. Over the past few months – and as referenced in my August 2018 blog post – I have mentioned to clients that Facebook (which also owns Instagram) had recently stated that Stories will soon overtake the traditional News Feed as the primary way social media users view content.

Was this it? Were they finally making the jump?

As I mentioned earlier, the Twitterverse was NOT happy with this change. When I say “not happy,” I mean that the update was being universally panned. So bad were the initial reactions that within the very same hour Instagram was back to its original and wonderfully addicting feed.

Oh, the Lords of Instagram were definitely watching and listening. It all happened so fast that my social media colleagues didn’t even get the chance to see it. It was the update that never was.

A couple of hours later Instagram put out a statement. “Due to a bug, some users saw a change to the way their feed appears today. We quickly fixed the issue and feed is back to normal. We apologize for any confusion.”

Yeah, okay.

My thinking is in line with what many others are thinking. That Instagram was clearly trying something out and gauging initial reaction. But this goes to show that the social media giants are clearly thinking ahead to what’s next for their platforms. If Stories are going to be the primary way users start viewing content, then the platforms will need to adapt to that eventually. This was probably the first move.

New Leadership Announced at Sullivan & LeShane Public Relations, Inc.

Sullivan & LeShane Public Relations, Inc. (SLPR), which for 30 years has been one of the leading strategic communications and public relations firms in Connecticut, announced new leadership effective January 1, 2019.

Gene Sheehan, the Managing Partner and President since SLPR opened its doors, will be stepping back from managing the day-to-day operations of the business and moving into a new role as Senior Counselor, where he will still remain actively involved with SLPR clients.

SLPR is excited to announce that Brian Flaherty— former Connecticut Deputy House Minority Leader and a longtime strategic communications and government affairs leader in Connecticut—will join the firm as Executive Vice President, while founding co-partner Paddi LeShane, who serves as CEO of SLPR and its sister government affairs company, Sullivan & LeShane, Inc., will continue to serve as CEO of SLPR. Dan Tapper, who has worked in a client services capacity at SLPR since 2007, has been promoted to the role of Senior Accounts Manager.

Mr. Sheehan, dubbed the “PR King” by a prominent Connecticut journalist, founded SLPR with his partners Patrick Sullivan and Paddi LeShane in 1988 after leading the state’s largest advertising firm for several years. He said today that after 30 years at the helm of one of the state’s most respected strategic communications firms, the time is right to move into a more advisory capacity.

“I have put my heart and soul into this business for the past 30 years, and every single day has brought reward and success—I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the finest business, community and media leaders during this time, and I cannot imagine a better way of spending my career,” Mr. Sheehan said. “Our clients understand that I will continue to advise them and work to help tell their stories wherever my assistance is needed. But I am leaving the firm in the talented hands of my longtime business partners Paddi LeShane and Patrick Sullivan, as well as Dan Tapper, Chris Zaccaro and our newest member Brian Flaherty.”

“It has been such an honor to work with Gene for all these years—to collaborate with him and strategize with him on behalf of some of the most important businesses and organizations in the state,” Ms. LeShane said. “I look forward to our continued success together, just in a slightly different capacity. So much has changed on the media landscape since we first commenced operations in 1988—the consolidation of legacy media, the explosive world of digital media and the business climate in Connecticut—but we have the perfect team in place to keep adapting to changes and continuing on the same upwards trajectory.”

Prior to arriving at SLPR, Mr. Flaherty spent the past four years as Senior Vice President of Public Policy for the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA), and before that spent 12 years as both a Director and Vice President of External Affairs and Public Policy for Nestle Waters North America in Stamford. He has worked as a communications coordinator for the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority (CRRA), an editor at Business & Legal Reports, Inc. and a press secretary in the Connecticut General Assembly. For 15 years, he served in the Connecticut General Assembly’s 68th District, rising to the level of Deputy Minority Leader. He lives in Watertown with his wife, Melanie, and their three children.

“The decision to join SLPR is an easy one, and I am thrilled to work with the very best in crisis and strategic communications in Connecticut—the opportunity to become a part of such a talented group, to serve such top-notch clients and to help grow the business is incredibly exciting for me. I have been friends with the folks at SLPR for a long time, and together we will make a great team,” Mr. Flaherty said. “It’s only fitting that after talking repeatedly at CBIA about the need to grow businesses in Connecticut, that I go out and do it myself by joining the SLPR team.”

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is over. If you haven’t already, please go get yourself checked out in November.

The idea of writing this post has been spinning around in my head for about a week now. Yesterday was October 31st – Halloween – but also the last day of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I have been hesitant to write this because I am not entirely sure the person occupying my thoughts over the past few months would like me writing about him. But following conversations with others – which I will explain later – I felt compelled.

Back in August, the day after my 32nd birthday, I found out someone very close to me – a man – was diagnosed with cancer. It turned out to be breast cancer. The cancer diagnosis certainly surprised me, but finding out later on that it was breast cancer did not. I had read or seen on TV somewhere that men could contract breast cancer. It’s rare, but it happens and I knew that. However, many don’t and many men never think to look for the symptoms. Or when they do discover symptoms, they choose to ignore them.

Up until recently, I never truly understood the devastating impact cancer can have on the human body, a spouse, a family or a group of friends. I thought I did. I knew that receiving a positive diagnosis would be tough. That going through the fight would be hard. But I was ignorant. I would be a hypocrite if I said I comprehended the monstrosity of the disease. Seeing it up close changes your consciousness. Seeing one of the strongest individuals you’ve ever known fight like this changes your attitude.

I’ve donated, I’ve thrown support behind cancer organizations, and I have sent notes of encouragement and condolences to friends of mine who had someone close to them fighting. But cancer hasn’t directly touched my life until now.

And I get it now

Just a few weeks ago I was having a conversation with an older colleague of mine. A mutual acquaintance of ours went in for that annual screening men never look forward to.

He said to me, “Boy, I am long overdue for that. It’s been years since I had that done.”

I am a little sensitive to this stuff these days, so my immediate retort was, “You need to go get that done. Take care of yourself because people care about you.”

My hope in writing this is that maybe I can convince a person or two reading this to WAKE. UP.

If it’s been a while – hell, if it’s only been a year – go get yourself checked out. If not for yourself, then for the people that love and depend on you.

A week ago I was walking with my sick friend into one of his many appointments and we were talking about everything that’s been going on the past few months. I embarrassed myself by revealing my own absent-mindedness when I commented, “You know, this whole experience really makes you think about our healthcare system.”

My friend, who was using every bit of his limited energy to just walk 30 feet down the sidewalk, laughed and said, “It really makes you think about life, Chris.”

It certainly does. Please go get yourself checked out.

To the men, women, boys and girls out there fighting cancer and to the doctors, nurses, receptionists, pharmacists, family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers supporting them – please fight on and know that there’s an entire community out there rooting for you.

Sullivan & LeShane Public Relations, Inc. Wins Gold, Silver & Bronze at the 2018 PRSA-CT Mercury Awards

Sullivan & LeShane Public Relations Inc. won three awards at the 2018 PRSA-CT Mercury Awards. Pictured left to right is Chris Zaccaro, Paddi LeShane, Tom Andrea, Dan Tapper and Eugene Sheehan.

Sullivan & LeShane Public Relations, Inc.’s “Pros From Dover” took home three awards from the 2018 PRSA Greater Connecticut Chapter Mercury Awards, an event that took place at the New Britain Museum of American Art on Thursday, October 25, 2018. SLPR won in the following categories:

  • Gold in the Public Affairs Category for our work with Making Every Vote Count.
  • Silver in the Special Event & Observances Category for our work with United Technologies Corp.
  • Bronze in the Media Relations Category for our work with Masonicare.

The PRSA Greater Connecticut Chapter hosts the Mercury Awards to honor excellence in public relations and communications.

Chris’s Clickbait: August 2018 – by Chris Zaccaro

SLPR Public Relations Associate Chris Zaccaro, our social/digital media Pro from Dover, pours through blogs and articles each week so he can stay up-to-date on the latest trends, tips, and innovations in digital and social media for our clients. Here’s a collection of recent third-party articles he’s found useful or at least worth a read…


📄 Social Media Today:
YouTube Adds Vertical Video
Support on its Web App,
Underlining Vertical Trend

As Story features from Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat continue to dominate the social media landscape, the vertical video push has forced video-sharing giant YouTube to adapt to the times by enabling users to view these videos as they are, without those annoying black or blurry lines on the side.

If you’re one of the few that are unfamiliar with Stories – a Story is a collection of videos or photos that will “expire” after a 24 hour period. You may have noticed the circular profile pictures at the top of your Facebook and Instagram News Feeds. Click on one and see for yourself what these Stories are. Just be aware that the other person will see you viewed it. CNN Tech’s 2017 article How to use Facebook Stories provides a solid overview. Also, I only refer to you as “one of the few” because Facebook has stated that Stories will overtake the News Feed as the primary way users view content by the end of this year.

For those that are familiar with Stories, you may well know that shooting your photos and videos vertically (not sideways, aka landscape) is definitely the way to go. That’s because Stories are primarily viewed full screen on smartphones. Many social media users will download the Story they created on one app and use them again on another app – or just send the file directly to friends via text or other means (there’s way too many options to list and I haven’t had my third afternoon coffee yet).

For this reason, and possibly because social media users are becoming conditioned to automatically start shooting their photos and videos vertically, it made sense for YouTube to make this move.

And yes, while I, and probably many of you, prefer to watch videos in the traditional landscape, 16:9 format (how old school of us) – this trend appears to be sticking around.

📄 Hubspot:
The 15 Best Video
Editing Apps for 2018

This article from Hubspot kicks off with “If you’re reading this blog post, chances are you already know you should incorporate more video content in your marketing.”

Don’t we know it? And if you don’t, here are some stats from WordStream blogger Mary Lister:

  • 51% of marketing pros worldwide name video as the type of content with the best return on investment
  • 61% of consumers make a purchase after watching branded social videos
  • Views on branded video content have increased 258% on Facebook and 99% on YouTube as of June 2017
  • By 2019, internet video traffic will count for 80% of all consumer internet traffic

The beauty of today’s technology is that the current slate of smartphones and tablets allow you to shoot and edit pretty decent video content without having to burn through your budget. As you could probably deduce from the title, this helpful post from Hubspot blogger Sophia Bernazzani provides a list and quick overview, including the “catches” that come with using free versions and trials, of the 15 best video editing apps for 2018.

📄  Social Media Today:
Twitter Chooses
Two Academic Projects
to Help Improve Platform Discourse

Twitter has turned to the academic community as the major social media companies continue their “fight” against the rise of fake news, increasing division within society, and data breaches – all of which they have been hammered for (and deservedly so) the past few years. As you’ll read in this article from Social Media Today’s Andrew Hutchinson, Twitter has chosen two academic projects to help improve discourse on its platform. The two individual studies will examine the echo chamber effect, which happens when social media users only follow and read views that they agree with, and whether exposure to a variety of perspectives can decrease prejudice and discrimination and increase more worldly views.

It remains to be seen if the studies will highlight the Twitter “snark” epidemic, which unfortunately (but amusingly) targeted both a Black Eyed Pea and pancake (and burger!) restaurant chain just this year. You’ll learn more about that below…

📄 Ragan’s PR Daily:
Twitter Erupts in Snark
Over ‘IHOb’s’ Name Change

And finally, the last article I wanted to share is not social or digital media specific – but the story certainly did make waves in the Twitterverse.

Back in early June the International House of Pancakes, you may know it as IHOP, kicked off SnarkFest 2018.2 when the folks at corporate decided to change the restaurant’s name to IHOb.

This phenomenon is not to be confused with Snarkfest 2018.1, which occurred back in February after Fergie’s legendary National Anthem performance at the NBA All Star Game. Not sure if John C. Reilly of Step Brothers fame chimed in on this one.

Back to the point.

It was fairly obvious from the get-go, and the chain eventually came clean once the waves finished crashing down, that the whole thing was a publicity stunt intended to create buzz about the restaurant’s new line of burgers.

Boy did it ever.


For what seemed like an entire week, I could not scroll through a Twitter feed without seeing some sort of IHOP/B mention. To be clear, I am not advocating for temporary name changes or publicity stunts, but throughout SnarkFest 2018.2 all I kept saying to myself was, “Until this week, I can’t remember the last time I thought about IHOP.” And this is coming from a big pancake fan. Huge.

Sure IHOP received a lot of snark that fateful week in June. even listed the move as one of its Top 10 Blunders of the Year – so far. But I don’t know if I can agree that it was a bad move or didn’t work. Here we are almost two months later and I’m STILL talking about IHOP!

A Career Begins, A Career Continues – Dan Tapper Remembers:

SLPR’s Public Relations Manager Dan Tapper takes a look back at the start of his career 28 years ago this July

I don’t recall the date, but it was exactly this time of year in 1990 – late July, during political season in a major statewide election year – that my full-time career in media began. It was 28 years ago almost to the day that I began my first-ever full-time job as a staff writer for the Journal Inquirer, which at the time was, I believe, the 5th-largest daily newspaper in Connecticut as well as the largest afternoon daily newspaper. I had previously worked for two months as a “stringer” for the Hartford Courant out of its Enfield bureau, but this was what I had been hoping for when I graduated from the University of Connecticut two months earlier with a degree in English – a full-time job as a news reporter. I was thrilled; a little scared as any 21-year-old might be, but without question ready to get going.

A few things stand out from Day 1; oddly enough, I didn’t do any writing that day. I more watched and learned the basics and logistics. Like how to use the “computer terminals” we all shared and, frankly (and anyone who was in the newsroom with me in that era can surely agree) looked like they were at least a decade past their prime. Like the schedule of morning deadlines and the groupings of reporters (we did our most intensive deadline-based work between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. in this pre-Internet era). Like where the bathrooms and the snack machines were, and what time the morning coffee truck came. Not to mention meeting our team of 25+ news reporters and 10 or so editors, all of whom were polite but had little time to get to know me in those first few hectic hours of my first day. So I watched, I observed, I read that day’s newspaper from cover to cover at least a few times, and I waited.

Oh, also? I met my wife that day; she was the reporter/editor assigned to show me around and, I think, make sure I didn’t break anything. She continues in that role today 28 years later, but that’s a story for another time 😊

It was later that night I was given my first assignment – to accompany a reporter to a local Town Council meeting (Vernon, I think) and assist her in covering the news that came out of it. I would report on…whatever it was I was covering…and file my first-ever story the next morning. Then we journeyed across town to cover a local nominating convention for a State Representative – interestingly enough, that State Rep. was none other than Connecticut’s current Congressman in the 2nd District, Joe Courtney. I met the then-State Rep., enjoyed his very pleasant and easy-to-quote demeanor, and headed home with my head spinning around 9 p.m., my brand new reporter’s notebook filled with my first day of notes and quotes and sitting next to me sitting on the passenger seat of my old Oldsmobile Cutlass. I was off and running.

The next morning I filed those stories, then the next day a couple more, and a pattern was born that is familiar to surely any daily journalist who ever covered a beat. I remember a particularly colorful exchange with a local official in that first week, who for some reason wasn’t willing to give me public information which I requested. I remember calmly telling him I was entitled to this information and, if he wasn’t going to cooperate, I would have to say so in my story. Nonetheless he agreed, and I scored my first (albeit very minor) victory for the public’s right to know.

Over time I would earn my first full-time beat (a combination of the town of Somers and the Enfield Board of Education, and a couple years later I shifted to the town of Windsor) and go through enough of those reporter’s notebooks to fill the trunk of my old clunker of a car. I covered the good and the bad, wrote features and in-depth reports, occasionally tussled with headstrong local officials and made some solid relationships with the people I covered. In the newsroom I made friendships that have lasted to this very day, friendships rooted initially in our common professional roles but which would soon grow deeper and more meaningful. Oh, and did I mention I met my wife there? We were married June 6, 1992 and just celebrated our 26th anniversary last month. I spent 6 ½ years at that newspaper before leaving for a career in public relations at the end of 1996, and while I can’t say I loved every moment (who can?), I can say without question that that crusty, dusty old newsroom played a huge role in shaping who I was and who I would become.

So many of us who worked there are no longer journalists today, though a few still are. Others among us are now teachers, lawyers, social workers, technical writers and, yes, a few of us remain on “the dark side” in the world of public relations. My daily grind no longer features a set-in-stone deadline of 9:15 a.m., but deadlines sure do still exist. I still rush to get things done, still write as much as I ever have, still cram research and fact-checking and tracking people down quickly into my workaday routine. I have spent 28 years working on one side of the media or another, and I cannot possibly imagine having spent my career doing anything else.

And it all started pretty much 28 years ago today, on that hot July day where everything seemed to be in front of me. And the good news? It still is.

“You Took My Speech!” – by Gene Sheehan

That’s apparently what happened at UConn on Tuesday night, in an incident that immediately garnered national attention and, quite honestly, left no one looking good.

According to published reports, while alt-right commentator Lucian Wintrich was delivering a speech entitled “It’s OK to Be White” to a room of a few hundred people – amid loud protests from many in the audience – a State Community College Adviser took his speech from the lectern and made off with it. The speech itself was certainly meant to be provocative and probably intended to be disruptive, and I’m not defending its point of view.

But let’s remember something.

“Speech” itself is pretty much the only thing that separates us from the animals, and it is so important to us as Americans (and as humans) that our Founding Fathers ensured that the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution contained a provision guaranteeing its absolute freedom from government intervention.

And once the words are taken away from people, the only option that usually remains is getting physical. That seems to be what happened here – something of a brawl ensued and the event was cut short, with the physical violence resulting in police arrests.

So much for the state of civil discourse in our current academic environment.

I participated in some of the disruptive social protest in the 1960s, and I understand the communication value of political theater. I also understand that a certain amount of disruption can be good and support positive change. In the end, however, we must depend on words and reason in order to live together.

After all, when you take away people’s speech, often times all they have left are their fists.