The war on intellectual freedom
by Denyse O’Leary, MercatorNet:
Fifty years is a long time. In 1964 University of California students were barred from distributing flyers about major issues of the day, including the civil rights struggle. The resulting protests kicked off the Free Speech movement, whose anniversary was duly commemorated by National Public Radio in 2014:
“This year, the university is hosting a series of events to commemorate the 50th anniversary with concerts, poetry readings and lectures. There’s no doubt that many students today appreciate the activism that came before them. Freshman Marisa McConnell says it is still part of Berkeley’s brand.”
But no, free speech is decidedly not still part of “Berkeley’s brand.” Today, even a minimal free speech advocate would scarcely recognize the place. In February, the campus was on lockdown after “protests” broke out against former Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos, an alt right figure who was scheduled to speak (but the event was cancelled) and
“… university police urged students to shelter in place and stay away from the protest area. Videos from campus show fires breaking out, and students on the scene say firecrackers were thrown.”
Yiannopoulos, termed improbably by D.D. Guttenplan at left-wing paper, the Nation, the “most hated man on the internet” had earlier told Guttenplan’s readers,
“The range of socially acceptable opinions is narrowing. … You can’t keep a newspaper column in this country and say that the wage gap is a myth or that campus rape culture is a myth. We’re reordering society according to myths and conspiracy theories and advocacy research. You cannot deny these things and keep your place in the establishment, even at right-wing newspapers. More.”
In fact, as we shall see, it is difficult even for dissenting scholars to be safe on campus any more, never mind a flamboyantly comedic provocateur like Yiannopoulos.
So what has changed in the intervening half century?