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Ron Radosh

From the Free Speech Movement to the No Speech Movement

May 17th, 2014 - 12:41 pm

All this followed the already much discussed withdrawal of Ayaan Hirsi Ali as commencement speaker at Rutgers University and the withdrawal of Condoleezza Rice as Rutgers University’s commencement speaker — all because of the public protest of a numerically small number of student and faculty leftists.

Under what guidelines of academic freedom, one wonders, are these faculty and student protesters operating? My answer is that the faculty elders grew up when Herbert Marcuse, of the Marxist Frankfurt School, was a household name to them. Marcuse, as I have pointed out in this column some time ago, believed in the theory he dubbed “repressive tolerance,” which coincided with the original FSM at Berkeley, and to which he dedicated his essay to his Brandeis students. According to the great sage of the New Left, “reactionary” and right-wing ideas should be suppressed. As he argued, the American state precluded true ideas – those of the Marxism he espoused — from being heard; therefore, the only chance of “liberation” was to free the people from being dominated by the ruling ideas. America, he believed, was “a totalitarian democracy.” His argument boiled down to this: “ Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left.”

Having learned from the likes of Marcuse, Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, the contemporary Left, which only cares about creating institutions that emphasize gender, class and race above all as the factors on which universities should be based, do their part to prevent their classmates and the students’ parents from hearing any thoughts that might actually open their minds to other beliefs than leftist dogma. I wonder how many genuine liberals who supported the Free Speech Movement feel about the fruits of their early rebellion. Oh, and Marcuse — he left Brandeis and ended his career teaching at the University of California, San Diego, a sister campus in the state university system. In 1976, he married a woman forty years his junior, whom I knew as a left-wing folksinger in the 1950s, and who lived in Berkeley with Marcuse. He died in Germany after a sudden stroke — having lived in both Berkeley and among the German New Left circles who considered him a hero. Knowingly or not, the current No Speech Movement owes him a great debt.

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I think there is a connection to the 60s but not quite the way you have portrayed it. The students who are silencing their adversaries and many of the faculty and administrators who go along with it were not part of the sixties. They have very little actual understanding of what happened.

1. The civil rights movement was about seeking equal treatment for blacks. It saw the problem as that of black people not being treated as individuals with the same rights as whites. There was absolutely nothing in the civil rights movement about racial preferences. In fact all participants in the civil movement prior to 1965 would have denied vigorously that their struggle was a struggle for group privilege.

2. The Weatherman were almost universally loathed by movement people. They were a violent cult that destroyed sds and greatly hampered the effort to end the war. They were not interested in ending the war in Vietnam. Their slogan was "bring the war home."

3. The Black Panther Party was at its core a collection of thugs. There were some well meaning people among them (including David Horowitz who worked with them) but they were using their white middle class supporters to shield them from law enforcement attempts to halt their crimes.

4. The left abandoned McGovern after he was nominated in 1972 on a platform of withdrawal from Vietnam. We are now very much aware of the importance of motivating the base in presidential elections. The left at best voted for McGovern but with the exception of the Indochina Peace Campaign they simply ignored the fact that the United States had a government and as long as the government chose to keep fighting, the war would continue. The war had become an excuse to act out but for the most part, the left had abandoned the political process.

5. It is unlikely that Marcuse, Chomsky or Zinn would approve the kind of fascist tactics that the current group of campus activists have adopted. It may be that some of the current crop of student agitators have actually read Marcuse's One Dimensional Man or his critique of pure tolerance but I wouldn't bet on it. What they have learned is that they are supposed to suppress the speech of those with whom they disagree. That is a new phenomenon that is rooted in the contemporary version of identity politics.

6. The connection of the current campus insanity and the sixties is that political correctness run amok after 1970 destroyed the new left and stripped it of its vision of people taking control of their own lives. In its place there was the reemergence of old left political sects, a revival of "Marxism-Leninism"; the triumph of identity politics over the politics of assimilation and real tolerance of difference; an aggressive strain in the women's movement that sought empowerment for women not through the strengthening women but through the disabling of men; the access to the middle class for blacks was to be achieved not by improving the education of blacks but through the abandonment of standards; and an environmental movement that became obsessed with its crusades without regards to their economic consequences.

Many of the people who were part of the new left in the sixties are now a substantial part of the resistance to the takeover of the government and the culture by these unfortunate holdovers from the sixties.

But it is important to keep in mind that overall, much was accomplished by the rebellion of the sixties. The whole edifice of legal segregation was dismantled in less than a decade. Vast new opportunities were opened up for women. And American foreign policy adopted human rights as part of its agenda in dealing with foreign countries.

What we see today is that all the unfortunate legacies (rather than the good things) have essentially taken over the federal government. The lunatic fringe of the lunatic fringe is now running the civil rights divisions of the Justice Department and the department of education.

It is emblematic of the times that the Obama administration actually nominated a Mumia supporter to be in charge of the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department. What is truly shameful is not only that he was nominated but that 47 senators actually voted to confirm the nomination. And what is frightening is that much of the main stream press treated the proposed appointee as a kind of contemporary Clarence Darrow.

Will the madness end? Only time will tell.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
"For example, start with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Get her a gig speaking somewhere not in spite of her extreme views about Islam, but because of them."

Hirsi Ali's views about Islam, specifically women in Islam, are not extreme but extremely accurate.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think it's important to keep in mind that these attempts to suppress commencement addresses are not trivial even though commencement address themselves are often rather trivial. The point is they are very visible, a point where university life and a broader public opinion meet up. As a result, these efforts at suppression are likely to resonate very widely. Far fewer voices in opposition to the reigning party line are likely to get a chance to be heard once a climate of intimidation has succeeded in this one area. So for every Condi Rice, a ton of silence inside and outside classes will result. And as a norm will be carried into the places the cowed graduates go on to after college. The degree to which what happens on campuses filters out into society can already be seen in the demented hostility to debate in society at large about climate change, race, sexual preference, women's rights, etc. It is up to the universities to get some backbone after all these decades and go on the offensive with the totalitarians. And I mean "offensive" in every sense, including a readiness to offend no matter what.

For example, start with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Get her a gig speaking somewhere not in spite of her extreme views about Islam, but because of them. Not in spite of the pretense some will make at being offended, but because of that. Unlikely, I know. But it is what it will take.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (27)
All Comments   (27)
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Since they did not like Ayaan, maybe they should have Saalwa al-Mutairi speak at their graduation, the polar opposite of Ayaan.

She has opinion about how women who are not Muslim should be used for.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxKCUr2jFT0
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dont let the New Left fool you, they were never for Free Speech, they were for Their Speech. Dont let them get away with claiming themselves to be Free Speech Movement supporters.

As soon as the New Left ascended into power in the Unis, Hate Speech codes were implemented...which is targeted political speech censorship, in reality. They dont support Free Speech and never have.

“To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” ― Voltaire
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Funny how you quote Voltaire, as he actually was, despite his PR, more for his speech than for "Free Speech." In fact, I'd argue that there was never such a thing as "Free Speech," it all being a lie to try to destroy us Christians and replace us with atheists. Timothy Dwight, some Jesuits, and others certainly believed this. Just look up "Duties of Americans in the Present Crisis" if you don't believe me. Voltaire even went as far as to make forgeries specifically to damage the Church.

Honestly, Voltaire was more like the "New Left" and the FSM. Both even attempted to take over the University system (French Academie in Voltaire and the Philosophes' case) to push their agendas.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
True, but the quote still fits very aptly.
I personally like this one: “Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.” William F. Buckley, Jr.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Fine piece by Radosh. We await a work of intellectual history that can more clearly link the apparent triumph of postmodern thought and its destructive power to our present situation. But it does seem clear that when all is relative and nothing sacred, traditional values and the accumulated knowledge that informs them are viewed as illusory and disposable. Thus can small groups of unlettered brats and their adolescent faculty enablers exercise a veto power over who speaks at commencement ceremonies, which now celebrate not our learning but our ignorance.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think there is a connection to the 60s but not quite the way you have portrayed it. The students who are silencing their adversaries and many of the faculty and administrators who go along with it were not part of the sixties. They have very little actual understanding of what happened.

1. The civil rights movement was about seeking equal treatment for blacks. It saw the problem as that of black people not being treated as individuals with the same rights as whites. There was absolutely nothing in the civil rights movement about racial preferences. In fact all participants in the civil movement prior to 1965 would have denied vigorously that their struggle was a struggle for group privilege.

2. The Weatherman were almost universally loathed by movement people. They were a violent cult that destroyed sds and greatly hampered the effort to end the war. They were not interested in ending the war in Vietnam. Their slogan was "bring the war home."

3. The Black Panther Party was at its core a collection of thugs. There were some well meaning people among them (including David Horowitz who worked with them) but they were using their white middle class supporters to shield them from law enforcement attempts to halt their crimes.

4. The left abandoned McGovern after he was nominated in 1972 on a platform of withdrawal from Vietnam. We are now very much aware of the importance of motivating the base in presidential elections. The left at best voted for McGovern but with the exception of the Indochina Peace Campaign they simply ignored the fact that the United States had a government and as long as the government chose to keep fighting, the war would continue. The war had become an excuse to act out but for the most part, the left had abandoned the political process.

5. It is unlikely that Marcuse, Chomsky or Zinn would approve the kind of fascist tactics that the current group of campus activists have adopted. It may be that some of the current crop of student agitators have actually read Marcuse's One Dimensional Man or his critique of pure tolerance but I wouldn't bet on it. What they have learned is that they are supposed to suppress the speech of those with whom they disagree. That is a new phenomenon that is rooted in the contemporary version of identity politics.

6. The connection of the current campus insanity and the sixties is that political correctness run amok after 1970 destroyed the new left and stripped it of its vision of people taking control of their own lives. In its place there was the reemergence of old left political sects, a revival of "Marxism-Leninism"; the triumph of identity politics over the politics of assimilation and real tolerance of difference; an aggressive strain in the women's movement that sought empowerment for women not through the strengthening women but through the disabling of men; the access to the middle class for blacks was to be achieved not by improving the education of blacks but through the abandonment of standards; and an environmental movement that became obsessed with its crusades without regards to their economic consequences.

Many of the people who were part of the new left in the sixties are now a substantial part of the resistance to the takeover of the government and the culture by these unfortunate holdovers from the sixties.

But it is important to keep in mind that overall, much was accomplished by the rebellion of the sixties. The whole edifice of legal segregation was dismantled in less than a decade. Vast new opportunities were opened up for women. And American foreign policy adopted human rights as part of its agenda in dealing with foreign countries.

What we see today is that all the unfortunate legacies (rather than the good things) have essentially taken over the federal government. The lunatic fringe of the lunatic fringe is now running the civil rights divisions of the Justice Department and the department of education.

It is emblematic of the times that the Obama administration actually nominated a Mumia supporter to be in charge of the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department. What is truly shameful is not only that he was nominated but that 47 senators actually voted to confirm the nomination. And what is frightening is that much of the main stream press treated the proposed appointee as a kind of contemporary Clarence Darrow.

Will the madness end? Only time will tell.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is an excellent and thoughtful comment. Thanks for posting it. I argued that the faculty, not today's students, are familiar with Marcuse from the 60's. Many of them urge activism and advocate it as their reason for teaching on their department web pages.
From my experience, I have found few if any that ex New Leftists are part of the resistance to government and have joined with the Tea Party, for example.
Finally, I think an anti-American foreign policy stems from much of New Left analysis of the 60's.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Left have many 'Holy Cows' and chief amongst them are Muslims, Homosexuals and Feral Black 'Youths' . Cast aspersions on any of these 'Holy Cows' and the whole panoply of Left Wing attack dogs including 'Politicians' the 'meejah' , Academia and the Entertainment Bozos will descend on you.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
I remember reading in the Politically Incorrect Guide to the 1960s that the so-called "Free Speech Movement" was organized by the Communists to basically squash actual free speech of their enemies. Ron, maybe you should put away, maybe smash your nostalgic feelings about them. They were bad then, and they are bad now. Besides, technically speaking, I'm not sure whether free speech in itself was a good thing, either. Voltaire primarily promoted it as part of his and his fellow philosophes' agendas to completely destroy Christianity, and made sure when they were in control of academia Christian thought was suppressed. This even led to the French Revolution.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
"...the 1960s that the so-called "Free Speech Movement" was organized by the Communists to basically squash actual free speech of their enemies."

Definitely the vibe.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Okay, found the pages. Page 1, as well as pages 3-8 of The Politically Incorrect Guide to the 1960s.

Pg 1: "Guess what? [...] *UC Berkeley's free speech movement was led by admitted Communists"

Pg 3-8: "The Berkeley free speech movement: Free speech for us
"The initial campus unrest of the 1960s was connected to the free speech movement at the University of California at Berkeley. The "movement" kicked off in 1964 as a protest against the school's ban on forming political organizations and raising money on campus for political causes. At the time, students could participate in politics off campus or join the College Democrats and College Republicans, but administrators believed that a public university should generally focus on academic work instead of politics, so they prohibited many political activities. The university was hardly a politically repressive environment, however. In fact, in 1963, just before the free speech movement began, university president Clark Kerr affirmed that even avowed Communists could give addresses to students and faculty.

"Student leftist leaders at the time were particularly galvanized by two issues, both of which were the focus of propaganda campaigns by the American Communist Party (CPUSA). The first, civil rights, was the target of a long-standing Communist agitation campaign aimed at recruiting American blacks into the party. The second issue was the bourgeoning conflict in Vietnam; unsurprisingly, the CPUSA strongly supported its Communist Vietnamese comrades against the American soldiers opposing them.

"At the time, the free speech movement's leaders claimed they were not Communists, but their denials rang hollow. THE [emphasis mine as there isn't an italics icon here] leader of the free speech movement was Bettina Aptheker, daughter of avowed Communist writer Herbert Aptheker and wife of Communist organizer Jack Kurzweil. Bettina came clean about her own membership in the Communist Party in November 1965 and later wrote about her Communism extensively in her memoirs, Intimate Politics.

"The movement's second-leading figure, Mario Savio, comically claimed to be not a Marxist, but a "gentle Socialist." Nevertheless, his rhetoric throughout his whole life was filled with admiring references to Marxism, such as a speech in 1988 in which he complained that the Soviet leadership had begun "to acknowledge the truth in America's truth; our leaders, however, have not yet begun publicly to acknowledge any truth in Marxist truth." Still, Savio conceded that one American had seen the light of truth in Marxism: "Jesse Jackson is an exception, of course."

"Third among the free Speech Movement guides was Jackie Goldberg. Here is a description of this self-declared "progressive" from a 1965 California State Senate report:

""Jacqueline Goldberg, the sister of Arthur Goldberg, came to Los Angeles to attend the university at Berkeley. She soon became the head of the U.C. Women for Peace, a front organization, and was its delegate to a Moscow meeting in 1963. She was also active in the American-Russian Institute at San Francisco, cited by the Attorney General of the United States as a Communist-dominated organization, and is now a member of the Policy Committee for the next World Communist Youth Festival which is scheduled to be held in Algeria. She was a member of both the executive and steering committees of FSM [the free speech movement], and was arrested during the invasion of Sproul Hall."

"Thus the free speech movement, which is often portrayed todayas a patriotic movement for student rights, was in fact led by two Communists and a "gentle Socialist." (It's unclear whether Aptheker and Goldberg considered themselves "gentle" Communists or just normal ones.))

"The movement fully emerged on September 30, 1964, when Savio and a group of 150 protestors occupied Berkeley's main administration building, Sproul Hall, and stopped students and faculty from going to the dean's office. Savio riled up his student followers by accusing the school's overseers of doing the bidding of big business. When the police arrived, Savio bit an officer's leg. He was suspended from the university along with seven other students, but throughout the following weeks Savio brazenly continued to lead protests on campus anyway. The next day, a student named Jack Weinberg and his colleagues set up a table in front of Sproul Hall to promote civil rights. This was university property, and the students had no permission from the administration for their political activities. When police asked Weinberg to identify himself, he refused and was arrested.

"For Aptheker, Savio, and Goldberg, this was the perfect pretext to provoke a major incident. Protesting students were dispatched to the scene to prevent a police car from driving Weinberg off to jail. As students blockaded the car with their bodies, Savio and others stood on the car's roof and made political speeches for more than a day. The timidit
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
“Whoever would overthrow the Liberty of a Nation, must begin by subduing the Freeness of Speech; a Thing terrible to Publick Traytors…That Men ought to speak well of their Governours is true, while their Governours deserve to be well spoken of; but to do publick Mischief, without hearing of it, is only the Prerogative and Felicity of Tyranny…Only the wicked Governours of Men dread what is said of them…”
~Benjamin Franklin

They only win if you take them seriously and they can shut you up.

So let's quit wringing our hands and get into some serious, relentless, full bore mockery when these idiots try to lay their identity politics/class warfare crapola and all the rest of it on us.

Wasn't it Gurdjieff who said we make our own prison bars ?
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ron, remember back in 1978 when Dean Ted Gross (CCNY) was pushed out after he published an article (in Saturday Review) critical of Open Admissions, affirmative action, teachers' unions and tenure? I remember the administration inciting students to "march on his office" to intimidate him. I thought the "Cultural Revolution" had come to our Harlem campus.

This brings back memories: http://digital-archives.ccny.cuny.edu/thecampus/1978/MARCH_142_5/00000170.PDF
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
"For example, start with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Get her a gig speaking somewhere not in spite of her extreme views about Islam, but because of them."

Hirsi Ali's views about Islam, specifically women in Islam, are not extreme but extremely accurate.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Agreed but for the PC MC numptie Left Hirsti Ali's major offense is simply speaking the TRUTH about Islam.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
"It also led to a speech by a young student named Mario Savio, whose following words sound today like a clarion call by a libertarian..."

In fact, Savio was rather a self-aggrandizing jerk.

But certainly a step up from Berkeley's commencement speaker this year, the dumbest woman in the world.

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/206417-pelosi-tells-grads-be-disruptors
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
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