From the Free Speech Movement to the No Speech Movement

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.