See free speech crushed at Tufts today. Remember 1964, when we were wild & untamed…

Summary: Every month brings new stories of America’s liberties eroding away, and our passive acceptance.  This Halloween brings an especially pitiful example. To understand how far we have fallen, compare the behavior of college students today to that during a famous incident fifty years ago. Sad, but we can change. We will be what we choose to be.

“Guilt only dreads Liberty of Speech, which drags it out of its lurking Holes, and exposes its Deformity and Horror to Day-light.”
— “Of Freedom of Speech, That the Same is inseparable from Publick Liberty“, one of Cato’s Letters by John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, 4 February 1720.

Indian maiden costume
A criminal dressed for Halloween.

“We were Americans once…”

The first Boomers turn 70 this year; the last turn 52. What have the Boomers become? What have they done to America? What kind of children have they raised? First look at today’s news, then at what the Boomers were in the first stirrings of their strength.

A letter from leaders of Tufts Multicultural Greek Council, Panhellenic Council, Inter-Fraternity Council, and Inter-Greek Council warns fraternities about the penalties of wearing politically incorrect Halloween costumes. It was publicized in a post by Jake Goldberg of Students Advocating for Students. The letter quotes the Dean of Student Affairs, Mary Pat McMahon, threatening students (bold emphasis in original).

“The range of response for students whose actions make others in our community feel threatened or unsafe, or who direct conduct towards others that is offensive or discriminatory, includes OEO {Office of Equal Opportunity} and/or TUPD investigation and then disciplinary sanctions from our office that could run a wide gamut depending on what is brought to our attention and the impact of these actions on others. Any complaints will result in full investigation by University officials and could result in serious disciplinary sanctions through Judicial Affairs.”

Jake Goldberg of SAS points out the absurdity and illegality of this oppressive action.

“Given that the standard of guilt for a violation of this policy relies on an entirely subjective evaluation — was the complainant offended? — there is no way for students responding to accusations of such a violation to prove their innocence.

“This problem is even further exacerbated due to the fact that the policy itself outwardly states that whether or not a student intentionally means to offend others is meaningless. A student who wears an outfit that offends somebody, yet had zero intention to do so, is just as much in violation of this policy as a student who purposefully seeks to insult others with their costume; both students stand no chance of avoiding disciplinary sanctions.

“Wearing a costume that others do not like is not a crime in a free country, especially not on a college campus ‘where freedom of expression is cherished,’ as Tufts University President Monaco has previously stated.”

This and similar outrages at other schools probably will be met with apathetic compliance. But we were not always peons. Look to our past for inspiration, when we were a vibrant and untamed people.. For example, to the Berkeley Free Speech Movement…

Berkeley Free Speech Movement
Mario Savio & marchers, 20 November 1964. Chris Kjobech photograph. Oakland Museum Collection.

The Boomers were wild and untamed once…

Fifty years ago the University of California prohibited students from distributing flyers about the powerful issues of the day. In 1964 that was civil rights. NPR describes the birth of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement (FSM; see its chronology).

“‘It was the passion that fueled the Free Speech Movement‘ said Lynn Hollander Savio, who was a senior at Berkeley in October of 1964. Hollander Savio says that many students had spent the summer on voter registration drives in the South. Back at Berkeley, they set up information tables to tell other students about civil rights. When the school administration tried to shut them down, the students were incredulous.

… She recalls that day when a former math grad student, Jack Weinberg, was arrested for distributing civil rights literature. He was thrown into a patrol car while thousands of curious students watched. ‘Somebody shouted “sit down” and students who were there to watch this happening sat down, and that police car didn’t go anywhere for 32 hours,’ Hollander Savio says.

As the students spontaneously chanted ‘let him go,’ the Free Speech Movement was ignited. Its leader was a mild-mannered but fiery orator named Mario Savio, who would become Lynn Hollander’s husband. In December of 1964, weeks after the initial confrontation, Savio spoke just before a massive sit-in that led to the arrest of 800 students.

“A reporter described what followed as a ‘gauntlet,’ as students were pushed down the stairs, beat and kicked. The confrontation proved too much for the university, and the university faculty voted to end all restrictions on political activity. The student movement — ranging from Young Socialists to Young Republicans — was victorious.”

Berkeley Free Speech Movement,
Mario Savio speaking at Berkeley on 7 December 1964. Robert W. Klein/AP.

A follow-up incident revealed much about the temper of the times. On 4 March 1965 Art Goldberg (one of FSM’s leaders) were arrested for shouting “F**K” in public. Collections were taken at a table for the “F**k Defense Fund”; two students at the table were arrested. A protestor was arrested while publicly reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Another was arrested for carrying a “Support the F**K clause” sign.

Hammered by criticism from students (too repressive) and some Regents (too lenient), UC President Kerr resigned on March 10. It was not accepted, although the resignation of Berkeley Chancellor Edward W. Strong was accepted.

"Pussycats" by Martin van Creveld
Available at Amazon.


We are not what we once were. We’re not the Founders, or the Americans who fought to end slavery. We’re not the Greatest Generation who defeated fascism and communism, then overturned the post-Civil War legal oppression of African-Americans. We are not even what we were in the days of the Boomers’ youth.

To see the magnitude of this change since 1964, imagine how Berkeley’s students of 1964 would react to regulation of their Halloween costumes. They would see the Orwellian nature of this intrusion of the Administration’s heavy hand — backed by police — into their personal lives. They might respond with mass disobedience, an orgy of incorrect costumes. They might riot.

Today we respond as sheeple. It is just one small example of the growing and tightening web of controls on American’s speech. Our passive response to the stripping away of our liberties supports Martin van Creveld’s belief that we have become pussycats. But we have the ability to recover our strength and again become Americans, not peons. It’s all about choice. We will be what we choose to be.  (See more discussion in the comments.)

Cat sees lion in the mirror

More evidence that Americans have become pussycats

No clowns allowed” — US Schools and parades are banning clown costumes after hysteria over ‘killer clowns’. Cosmopolitan excitedly reports that a 29 year old student was traumatized by seeing an Ivanka Trump label on clothes. It’s not the incidents themselves that are significant. In a large nation oddities always abound. That these are reported seriously, rather than as fun or ludicrous incidents, that’s significant.

For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about freedom of speech, about protests , and especially these…

  1. How to stage effective protests in the 21st century.
  2. How do protests like the TP and OWS differ from effective political action?
  3. Why don’t political protests work? What are the larger lessons from our repeated failures?
  4. Thoreau reminds us about one of the few tools we have to control the government — About civil disobedience.


5 thoughts on “See free speech crushed at Tufts today. Remember 1964, when we were wild & untamed…”

  1. What should the Tufts’ community do?

    Elite social engineering is beaten by mobilizing people. As Luther said, “Mock them; they cannot bear scorn.” At Tufts a decisive response would be to hold massive Halloween parties with everyone dressed in politically incorrect costumes. Diverse, wild, and fun.

    It’s a form of the “V for Vendetta” solution. All it takes is leadership.

    V for Vendetta

  2. A freqent response to this post via Twitter & email: “they’re cowards”

    The activists pushing to re-shape America — controls on our speech being just one part of their program — are not cowards. They are hard working, smart, and dedicated.

    We are the cowards, the majority who quietly accepts their oppressive interference.

  3. Another frequent response: “Typical big brother oppressive government.”

    It’s not accurate to see this as an authoritarian government expanding its powers. It is not “government vs. the people.”

    These programs to control speech are one element of a broad social movement, perhaps even a revolution. Activists are working in government, NGO’s (including academia, middle management of university administrations), and the people. It’s a “Trinitarian” operation, of a different kind than Clausewitz described.

  4. From time to time I reflect how incredible it is that we have such strong legal protections for free speech in the U.S., given that freedom of speech has got to be one of the most unpopular concepts in human history. If one wants to make the case for the U.S. as an exceptional nation, that’s not a bad place to start.

    Always one of the first reactions to encountering opposing viewpoints is to call for official or unofficial censorship on various grounds (libelous, spreading falsehoods, discriminatory, etc.). Even among many so-called defenders of civil liberties. How many now would agree with the old misattributed Voltaire quote about “defend[ing] to the death your right to say it”? Scant few, and it has gotten tremendously worse on University campuses. They’ve gone from being bastions of self-expression, sex, drugs and rock and roll to becoming models of a locked-down, controlled, joyless society with microagressions and consent forms, all in less than two generations.

    One terrifying aspect is the break with liberal traditions of the enlightenment about rational discourse and move to Leninist tactics of intimidation among the vanguard of SJW types leading this. But like most movements they do so with the passive support of the student population. Since every generation for which we have such records has said the same things about the generations that come after it that people are currently saying about “Millenials,” I’m hesitant to look there for causes, but occasionally I wonder about the formative influence of their upbringing.

    I remember in the late 1990s a sea-change coming over the public school environment. This was the era of the Clinton-backed push for school uniforms, clear backpacks, unannounced locker searches and random drug testing (issues that previous generations of high school students might have rioted over, but these things were introduced in middle school when minds are more malleable). This was the era when, thanks to the efforts of identity politics / SJW types in the universities, public school curricula had firmly established multiculturalism, diversity and political correctness as the highest possible values. This was when parents, terrified by the (fake) missing childen / abduction scare of the 1980s refused to allow their kids to play outside unsupervised (while improving video game technology gave them something to do while imprisoned inside), and began “helicoptering” their kids through endless rounds of structured activities where they always had some authority figure telling them where they needed to be and what they needed to do. As long as you did what you were told and didn’t think for yourself you’d get a trophy and a pat on the back.

    Since I came of age right before this group I saw a lot of this stuff in the rear-view mirror and felt like I dodged a bullet. I remember thinking, at the time, “what kind of authoritarians are these kids going to grow up to be?” Perhaps now we have the answer . . .

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