This month marks 50 years since Mario Savio stood atop a police car at UC Berkeley and gave an impassioned speech to throngs of young pampered radicals that launched what is now preserved in amber and lionized as the “Free Speech Movement.” Barefoot and presumably smelly, Savio famously orated something about the “machine”—apparently it was “odious”—and how you had to place your body in the machine’s gears to stop it from working.
And in a sense, it worked. But more precisely, the machine only shifted gears. The net result a half-century later on college campuses nationwide is that you are now permitted to say “fuck” but no longer allowed to say “nigger.”
In an email forwarded to Berkeley’s faculty, staff, and students early in September of this year, school chancellor Nicholas Dirks acknowledged the Free Speech Movement’s Golden Anniversary, but with reservations:
…the commitment to free speech and expression can lead to division and divisiveness that undermine a community’s foundation. … Our capacity to maintain that delicate balance between communal interests and free expression…will be tested anew. Specifically, we can only exercise our right to free speech insofar as we feel safe and respected in doing so, and this in turn requires that people treat each other with civility.
Cutting through that verbal wall of bullshit, Dirks appears to be saying that free speech ends where the “community” begins. He also seems to imply that one person’s right to feel “safe and respected” may trump another’s right to say what’s on their mind.
It is no coincidence that one of the prime movers and shakers of the original Free Speech Movement was Bettina Aptheker, the daughter of dedicated Stalinists and a woman who, despite all the lip service she paid to “free speech,” openly supported thought-squashing socialist regimes throughout the 1960s, the sort of tyrannical state entities that would rip your tongue out of your throat for making the merest bird squeak of dissent. Aptheker is now a professor of feminist studies at UC Santa Cruz and recently wrote this in a Berkeley alumni magazine:
On the occasion of this 50th anniversary of the FSM…it is worth pausing for a moment to consider the ways in which gender, race, class, and sexuality may effect [sic] one’s access to freedom of speech. Although the First Amendment embraces a universal ideal in its wording, it was written by white, propertied men in the 18th century….
Lady, if I was against free speech, I’d tell you to shut the hell up right now. But I’ll let you prattle onward and downward, because you’re only proving my point.
What a despicable group of tyrants the freewheeling leftists of the early 1960s have become. Those who rose up against the “machine” back then are still working from the old operator’s manual. Miraculously, they still manage to convince themselves that they have not become the machine against which they once railed. And somewhere along the line they concocted the screwball idea of “hate speech”—I doubt such a concept so much as existed in 1964—and began fallaciously arguing that it was a fundamentally different thing from free speech. They spun a magical illusory world where “civil rights” and “civil liberties” are somehow at odds with one another. They even convinced untold numbers of otherwise intelligent people that if you stopped calling blacks dirty names, those benighted and oppressed descendants of slaves would perform better academically.
They still whine about McCarthyism, which would be fine if they were able to point to a single Nazi screenwriter currently employed in Hollywood. In their childish quest to avoid creating a “hostile environment,” they’ve engineered an environment that is brutally hostile to the merest wisp of dissent. They have engineered a coddled, over-medicated world where mild disapproval of anything is “hate speech.” In the service of “sensitivity,” they have fashioned a modern educational system that is an uninterrupted blood libel against white males. They have achieved ethnic, gender, and sexual diversity—at the almost complete expense of ideological diversity. It is a world where feelings overrule ideas at every turn. Ideas—at least ones that diverge a millimeter from official indoctrination—are viewed as threats.
The mind of a censor is a dark and frightened space. Censors are motivated not by a certainty that their targets are wrong but a fear that they may be right. The end result of the Free Speech Movement has been to create a generation of graduates whose minds are bolted shut and paved over with cement.
In the interest of delusional and unquantifiable intangibles such as “equality” and “social justice,” the totalitarian wolves in free-speech clothing who arose in Berkeley fifty years ago have created a suffocating environment that is more hostile to the free exchange of ideas than perhaps at any time in American history.
They’ve fostered a savagely intolerant climate where the president of Harvard can get canned merely for suggesting that the sexes may be different. Where someone who uses the evil patriarchal tool of mathematics to deflate overblown hysteria about sexual assault on campus is disinvited from a campus speaking engagement. Where Yale students are prevented from quoting F. Scott Fitzgerald due to the imagined “homophobia” in the word “sissies.” Where displaying “a condescending sex-based attitude towards a person” constitutes sexual harassment. Where merely uttering “sexist statements” is deemed a literal act of sexual harassment. Where you can be prohibited from using computers to transmit “material, which in the sole judgment of the University is offensive, violent, pornographic, annoying or harassing….” Where students are confronted by campus police for—get this—merely handing out copies of the US Constitution.
Colleges have become indoctrination factories where incoming students are instructed that all whites are racists and that nonwhites are incapable of racism. Where freshmen—sorry, freshpersons—at Harvard were asked to sign an oath affirming the highly anti-intellectual notion that “kindness holds a place on par with intellectual attainment.” Where any guest speaker, no matter how reasonable or genteel, can be shouted off a campus by infantile mobs of pampered leftists who only differ from students at Berkeley in the early 1960s in the sense that their actions are now utterly risk-free.
All of this has not merely had a “chilling effect” on free speech. In many cases, it has absolutely frozen the possibility of open debate. A wide-ranging 2010 study revealed that a mere 35.6% of college students “strongly” agreed it is “safe to hold unpopular positions on campus.” Among faculty and staff, it was even worse—a piddling 18.5% agreed with that statement.
If any of the ideological descendants of the original Free Speech Movement gave a fig about free speech, they’d stop the ritual silencing, shaming, and expulsion of anyone who doesn’t kowtow to predatory egalitarianism and incessantly ludicrous leftist pieties.
The repression is hardly confined to campuses, although that’s where it originated and remains most intense. It is also rampant in the media, in the workplace, and online. Things are so repressed that the vast majority of online commenters who don’t toe the dominant ideological line are wary of using their real names for fear of the consequences. This is a climate that is anything but free. It is high time to throw our bodies full-force on this new, smiley-faced machine that seeks to crush us.
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