Heckle On Jennicet Gutierrez

by Michael Schultz on June 29, 2015

Last week I picked up on a piece from the Huffington Post by Associate Professor of Spanish Linguistics Holly R. Scott. It was a thoughtful piece that covered some Obama heckling with reference to transgender rights.

The first clip shows Obama responding to Jennicet Gutierrez’s heckling moment in the White House. What is most striking is the number of cell phones focused on the podium.

The individual was ushered out because they did not comply with the order by the President to be quiet.

Here’s more of a look at Biden and Obama at the podium handling the whole affair….he uses the ‘when you’re in my house…’ logic to try to curtail the outspoken person:

The President defies the interruption and the ‘rowdy’ nature of the crowd. He is extremely patient but Gutierrez is persistent. An interesting heckling moment indeed. The crowd comes to his support ultimately. As a former classroom teacher – I wish it had been this easy to remove a student who wasn’t behaving in class.

Ms. Cashman takes us through the event and I enjoyed the fact that she did resolve that the event constituted heckling. Many others still think of heckling as a deviant act….and it can be…..but clearly, she supports the person trying to get her message across to the President.

Here’s what Cashman had to say:

I awoke to news this morning of Jennicet Gutiérrez’s interruption of President Obama’s remarks at the White House reception to celebrate Pride month.

My first thought, because I’m a word nerd, was: is “heckler” the right word? 

I guess I tend to associate ‘heckler’ with stand-up comedians, or, rather, with those who interrupt their acts. So, like any word nerd worth her/his/their salt, I went to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to try to find the word’s definition and to an etymological dictionary to learn its origin. 

This is what I found:

The third definition for heckle, the verb from which the noun heckler is derived, in the OED is “To catechize severely, with a view to discover the weak points of the person interrogated. Long applied in Scotland to the public questioning of parliamentary candidates.” The Online Etymology Dictionary explains that the verb heckle (early 14th c.) originates from a noun heckle (circa 1300), which was a comb used to tease out flax or hemp fibers. Heckler, then, became in the mid-15th century, one who uses a heckle. By extension, it was applied in the 19th century to one who treats politicians roughly, as the person who used a heckle treated the hemp or flax fibers, according to this association described by David McKie in The Guardian:

The leap across to the secondary meaning — to interrupt political speakers with awkward or embarrassing questions — was made in Scotland, and specifically perhaps in Dundee, a famously radical town where the hecklers who combed the flax had established a reputation as the most radical and stroppy element in the workforce.
By 1800, according to an account by Graham Ogilvy in Billy Kay’s anthology The Dundee Book, they were already operating as a powerful trade union. To some extent, a local employer noted in 1809, they controlled the trade, dictating wages, conditions and bonuses (mostly taking the form of drink), all enforced by combination and strike.
The heckling shop, said another observer, was frequently the arena of violent harangue and ferocious debate. One heckler would be given the task of reading out the day’s news while the others worked. What they did when they moved from factory floor to public meeting had a second relevance. “Heckling” then was a method of firing off questions designed to tease or comb out truths that politicians might wish to conceal or avoid.

(Full disclosure, I got that article in The Guardian via a citation in Wikipedia’s entry on heckler.)

So, heckler is precisely the right word, and it has a wonderful labor connection to boot. None of this, of course, gets to the question of whether what Jennicet Gutiérrez did was right or wrong. I firmly believe the following, in no particular order:
• It is imperative to speak truth to power in order to change a status quo (e.g. the detention, incarceration and abuse of LGBTQ migrants), 
• To heckle the President of the United States at the White House as an undocumented trans woman is incredibly courageous,
• The White House belongs to the people of this country, most of whom are or come from a history of migration, not to any one President or administration,
• Just as FDR is reported to have told organizer A. Phillip Randolph “I agree with everything you have said. Now, make me do it.” when he spoke to him about the conditions of Black and working people in the U.S., so has President Obama told progressives to do the same (“Now the Work of Movements Begins”), so it is dishonest to criticize people for doing so,
• To attempt to sully the image of someone (e.g. an activist, a victim of police brutality, a woman who is raped or assaulted) and engage in ad hominem attacks in order to distract from the very real problem or issue at hand is dishonest, irresponsible and intellectually weak,
• The celebration of Pride was originally a political statement, and it should continue to allow for political statement, even alongside its wildly consumerist and bacchanal elements (read almost anything about the Stonewall Riots in 1969, the Christopher Street Liberation Day march in 1970, even this short blog piece from Contagious Queer, if you’re really pressed for time),
• It is shameful and embarrassing when people who have acquired a position of power thanks to the activism of others (or even their own past activism) choose to criticize others who use the same tactics to fight for their rights or very existence. Where would any of us but the most privileged be if everyone who managed to open a door of opportunity, shut it behind themselves so that no one else could pass though? (I know there is a great quote about this out there that I can’t think of right now),
• Anyone from the queer community who believes there is a correct “time and place” for protest should remember or learn about ACTUP and the strategies people used to call attention to the life-and-death issue of the HIV/AIDS (maybe start with the ACTUP Oral History Project).

In other words, I firmly believe that “well behaved women seldom make history” should not be a cute bumper sticker or t-shirt slogan quaintly describing a past reality that is no longer true today; it is just as relevant today as it was in the Early American Puritan setting it originally described (see “We’re No Angels”), and acting up (even behaving ‘badly’ according to some) in order to try to bring attention to an issue that is literally life-and-death for members of the LGBTQ community who are detained, incarcerated and subjected in inhumanely abusive conditions is all right with me. 

I, for one, am thankful for and proud of Jennicet Gutiérrez, the Trans Queer Liberation Movement, and others who are speaking out and refusing to let queer people who are unauthorized migrants in this country be treated as less than deserving of our support. 

So, to return to my original question, heckler is the right word. But so is hero. Heckle on, Jennicet Gutiérrez, HECKLE ON!

Stand Back Pal…

by Michael Schultz on June 26, 2015

I’m not sure how this idiot got so close to a Queen’s Guard but he should have been arrested or deported for his actions. This ‘tourist’ should be sent packing. It’s the same lame person who  hurls unnecessary comments in nightclubs, political forums and sports arenas.

Stand back pal – time to repent.

Sports or Entertainment???

by Michael Schultz on June 9, 2015

Every so often a really good heckling episode comes along….here’s a post on Google Alerts I found today:

The lighthearted hecklers at the Franklin Half Marathon not only get an A+ for creativity, but also are darned talented musicians. For most runners, this crazy bunch would likely bring a smile and be a welcome distraction from the pain.


Good old Tennessee!

Michael Keaton Supports the Pirates

by Michael Schultz on June 8, 2015

Har……Michael Keaton spotted at a Braves game.

Apparently Michael likes to sit real close -hey, he can afford it…..kinda like Jack at the Laker games in LA.

Anyways, he apparently approached a heckler recently who was riding one of the Pirates (Andrew McCutcheon)and tried to give him a reprimand. Here’s what happened:

If your team happens to be playing the Pittsburgh Pirates and Michael Keaton is in the crowd, here’s a friendly tip: do NOT heckle the Pirates.

A Braves fan found out about that the hard way Friday night in Atlanta. The fan began his heckle-fest by aiming the jabs at outfielder Andrew McCutchen. Being the kind of guy who can take care of himself, McCutchen responded with an RBI double in the eighth and then gave his batting glove to the mouthy man.

Keaton, a Pittsburgh native, then went over and heckled the heckler.

Here’s the scoop from the Washington Post with pictures – no video on You Tube as yet:



A Case of the Clap

by Michael Schultz on June 1, 2015

I was at a town council meeting in nearby Rockwood tonight. The contentious issue of a pending quarry in the community led to strong support by attendees in the form of clapping (against the quarry). I thought it normal until the mayor suggested people in the audience show more respect for the decorum of the proceedings – meaning do not clap svp.

We now learn that there may be too much clapping by MPs in the Canadian Parliament – something that is not normally tolerated in Britain’s house of ‘cards’. Mind you they do pound their desks a wee bit.

Here’s a quote from a recent Macleans article:

“Four years ago, at the outset of the 41st Parliament, the late NDP leader Jack Layton vowed that his caucus would not heckle. As one observer suggested this week, there’s no difference between shouting and clapping and, really, any commitment to decorum would include generally refraining from both. I’d actually suggest that, if you wanted to improve question period, more would be gained by eliminating clapping than eliminating heckling. The heckle at least has the possibility, however faint these days, of wit. Clapping is just putting your hands together to make noise.”

It looks like this….in fact MPs supposedly spend over 20 hours a session just clapping. Could more get done without the clapping is of course the question.

You can read the article at this link:


I quite agree – with heckling there is the faint hope of wit and purposeful attack. Seals clap – people heckle.

Laddism be damned…

by Michael Schultz on May 19, 2015

I must confess that when I heard about the Toronto FC soccer fans who yelled obscenities at journalist Shauna Hunt recently, I rejected the idea that the offenders had indeed ‘heckled’…clearly they had bullied and perhaps even committed sexual assault. I wasn’t even going to address it.

Oh dear. As I used to say to ‘potty-mouthed’ students …’ you don’t kiss your grandmother with that mouth do you?’ Who are these guys….? Might be awhile before I take my grandkids to the soccer stadium….although I hear the TFC games at BMO Field are still family friendly.

The Toronto Globe’s John Doyle came out with a good assessment in his piece on May 19th called “What’s needed: The feminization of sports coverage.” In it he introduces the reader to the English soccer world and ‘Laddism’.  As he puts it, Laddism is ‘ the blithe, unthinking sexism of the lewd remark, the grope, the joke about rape, the intimidation of women in places where they have the right to feel safe.’ This is NOT heckling.

Good on the reporter Hunt for standing her ground and confronting the ‘goons’. Doyle’s contention, and a good one I think, is that ‘the Internet has created spaces for vile behaviour’. But this was not the Internet. This was a public space.

Doyle goes one step further and suggests that the sports stadium venue may be  in a state of change from one where fans release rage, frustration and anger into one that confronts sexism and other forms of intimidation in public places.


Party of One

by Michael Schultz on May 11, 2015

Canadian Green Party leader Elizabeth May spoke at a press gallery dinner recently but didn’t exactly ‘kill’.

She was taking an opportunity to say – I think – that Omar Khadr is not so bad….even better than those Conservatives.

In this clip, she tries a little “Welcome Back Kotter” on the crowd. The ‘hook’, in the form of Lisa Raitt on stage, comes out and she’s encouraged to leave….but not until after she tears a strip off a certain group of politicians.

Holy fuddle duddle Batman! Not a lot of heckling going on – only a few jaws scraping the floor. May has apologized for her unsuccessful attempt at humour on stage. (something about 5 hours sleep in 48 hours)

I can see this kind of thing in ‘closed quarters’ but I think May may be in over her head here. On the other hand – she’s brave for speaking up.


That’s Fair

by Michael Schultz on May 5, 2015

Politician Ben Konop from Toledo faces the drone of a heckler shouting a chorus of ‘boo’ and ‘liar’ in the following clip of ‘How to Heckle a Politician.’

Here’s what Wikipedia had to say about Mr. Konop:

Ben Konop is a former Lucas County Commissioner. He ran unsuccessfully for Mayor of ToledoOhio in 2009, after a heckler booed him and called him a liar for going back on his pledge to remain in his county commissioner seat until his full term was up. If he had won the mayor’s race, he would not have been able to complete his term. A video of the booing incident became an internet sensation on YouTube and was even spoofed on Comedy Central’s South Park.

He’s a young guy – seemingly well-intentioned…..but, like most politicans, faces the wrath of the public. He takes a page from Obama’s approach – he declares that it’s only fair if they both get a chance to speak – just not at the same time.

In other news – this came through about auditions for political hecklers in England. Quite unusual.

On 3-7 May we are performing a highly political play at Brighton Fringe. The ‘politician’ will be ‘campaigning’ during the day in public. A documentary will be made about this political campaign. We are looking for extras to come along and heckle. No script. You can say anything you like.

This is how it will work.

If given the role you give us your mobile phone number. Then whilst we are ‘campaigning’ round Brighton we will text you telling you where we are.

The ‘politician’ will be on a soapbox.

You then come along once and heckle – and you are filmed at the same time.

This is PAID but UNSCRIPTED and you get a copy of the film of course. Your heckling is not expected to last longer than 10 minutes.

It’s an interesting experiment.

Brighton is a MARGINAL seat – this may even affect the outcome as the play is very very critical of certain, um, political parties!

Have  look at this website for further details:


The Show Must Go On…

by Michael Schultz on May 1, 2015

It’s an old saying –  ’the show must go on’. So it was in Baltimore Wednesday as the Orioles and White Sox played to an almost empty house, just a media gallery – no fans except a few hundred across the street or just outside the gate….all a result of civil unrest in the city.

The only cheers came from just outside the gates –  45,000 fans were muted when the decision was made to go on with the game but not to allow the large crowd to potentially get ornery.

Apparently it was the only time in MLB’s 145-season history that the game went on without fans.

During batting practice, one fan hollered ‘let us in’ to no avail.

A few oddities – they still played the organ rendition of Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the seventh inning stretch. Comical.

One player actually threw a ball into the stands – no one was there to catch the ‘reward’. Another player could be heard to shout “I got it!”. Normally you wouldn’t hear that.

Even the players in the dugouts had to be careful what they said because it was so quiet and voices travel inside the stadium.

When I was a kid at summer camp, we used to have something called a “monk’s meal”. The whole idea was no one could talk through the entire dining experience. It worked – the silence was ‘deafening’. Maybe this is the future of sport – 45,000 well-behaved people keenly listening to the players. They ‘mic’ some athletes – e.g.: curlers….maybe ballplayers could wear something ( or not).

The Orioles took a hit by losing a ton of revenue and concession sales. But, hey, they entered the record books doing it!

The score?…Orioles 8 – White Sox – 2, Fans -0.

In this clip, the Oriole’s catcher signs imaginary autographs:

Not much room for players to get heckled in this situation.

The Heckle Therapist

by Michael Schultz on April 28, 2015

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld realized early in his career it is easier to deal with a heckler by using therapy instead of ‘verbal weaponry’ and counter attack. In a post from a ‘non-violence’ site, Seinfeld was quoted as saying:

“Very early on in my career, I hit upon this idea of being the Heckle Therapist. So that when people would say something nasty, I would immediately become very sympathetic to them and try to help them with their problem and try to work out what was upsetting them, and try to be very understanding with their anger. It opened up this whole fun avenue for me as a comedian, and no one had ever seen that before. Some of my comedian friends used to call me – what did they say? – that I would counsel the heckler instead of fighting them. Instead of fighting them, I would say “You seem so upset, and I know that’s not what you wanted to have happen tonight. Let’s talk about your problem” and the audience would find it funny and it would really discombobulate the heckler too, because I wouldn’t go against them, I would take their side.”

Maybe this would work in the world troublespots – instead of engaging in huge military and human life expenditure – Jerry may be on to something here.