Murray, McCarthy, Middlebury

Middlebury_19187.jpg“The violence committed against Charles Murray and others at Middlebury College is a significant event in the annals of free speech.” Daniel Henninger

“McCarthyism, the word, stands for the extreme repression of ideas and for silencing speech.” Ibid

Editor’s Note: Henninger should have labeled these student/thugs “Marxist/Leninist radicals” instead of “McCarthyist radicals” who “hound, repress and attack conservatives.” The following bibliography will correct the misapplication of Senator Joe McCarthy and his important stance against America’s enemies: (a) William Buckley and L. Brent Bozell, McCarthy and his Enemies; (b) M. Stanton Evans, Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and his Fight Against America’s Enemies; (c) Fred Schwarz, You Can Trust the Communists (to be Communists); (d) Herbert Romerstein and Eric Breindel, The Venona Secrets; (e) Eugene Lyons, The Red Decade; (f) Harvey Klehr, John Earl Haynes, Fridrikh Igorevich Firsov, The Secret World of American Communism.

McCarthyism at Middlebury

Daniel Henninger, The Wall Street Journal, March 9, 2017, p. A 17

The violence committed against Charles Mur­ray and oth­ers at Middle-bury College is a signifi­cant’event in the annals of free speech. Since the day the Founding Fathers planted the three words, “freedom of speech” in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Americans and their institutions have had to contend with attempts to sup­press speech.

The right to speak freely has survived not merely be­cause of many eloquent Su­preme Court decisions but also because America’s politi­cal and .institutional leader­ship, whatever else their dif­ferences, has stood together to defend this right. But maybe not any longer. America’s campuses have been in the grip of a creeping McCarthyism for years. Mc­Carthyism, the word, stands for the extreme regression of ideas and for silencing speech. In the 1950s, Republican Sen. Joe McCarthy turned his name into a word of general­ized disrepute by using the threat of communism, which was real to ruin innocent in­dividuals’ careers and reputa­tions.

Today polite liberals—in politics, academia and the media arts—watch in silent assent as McCarythyist radi­cals hound, repress and attack conservatives like Charles Murray for what they think, write and say.One of the first politicians to speak against this mood in 1950 was Republican Sen. Margaret Chase Smith of Maine. In her speech, “Decla­ration of Conscience” Sen. Smith said: “The American people are sick and tired of being afraid to speak their minds lest they be politically smeared as ‘Communists’ or ‘Fascists’ by their opponents. Freedom of speech is not what it used to be in America. It has been so abused by some that it is not exercised by others.”  Three years later, in 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower gave a famous commencement speech at Dartmouth College. “Don’t join the book burners,” Ike told the students. Even if others “think ideas that are contrary to ours, their right to say them, their right to record them, and their right to have them at places where they are accessible to others is unques­tioned, or it isn’t America.”

Today, the smear is com­mon for conservative speakers and thinkers. Prior to Mr-Murray’s scheduled talk at Middlebury, a student peti­tion, signed by hundreds of faculty and alumni, sought to rescind the invitation because we believe that Murray’s ideas have no place in rigorous scholarly conversation Such “disinvitations” have be­come routine.

So let us plainly ask: Why hasn’t one Democrat stood in the well of the Senate or House to denounce, or even criticize, what the Middlebury mob did to Charles Murray and the faculty who asked him to speak? Have any of them ever come out against the silencing of speech they don’t like?

Let’s recognize that the failure to oppose McCarthyist creep from the left is also consuming liberal reputations. A key event here is what hap­pened at Yale to Professors Erika and Nicholas Christakis, who were made to resign their positions last May over the in­famous 2015 “Halloween” cos­tumes incident.

Erika Christakis wrote later about the experience for the Washington Post and there is one unforgettable passage:

“Few [of her colleagues] spoke up. And who can blame them? Numerous professors, includ­ing those at Yale’s top-rated law school, contacted us per­sonally to say that it was too risky to speak their minds. Others who generously sup­ported us publicly were ad­monished by colleagues for vouching for our characters.”

That is McCarthyism at Yale.

Years back, well-inten­tioned people supported the creation of speech codes in academic settings. That was a poisoned chalice. Acquiescing to claims for ever-expanding definitions of “hurtful speech” led, inevitably to rule, by mob, like the one at Middlebury that sent Prof. Allison Stanger to the hospital. Some faculty of late have been set­ting aside the tedium of open discourse to join the thrilling student mobs.

For all this, Middlebury may be a turning point in this slow, steady and too often unresisted effort to replace the Founders’ First Amendment with a progressive rewrite.

A few days after the Mur­ray incident, something ex­traordinary happened: Some 40 Middlebury professors, from many disciplines, signed a strong statement supporting “Free Inquiry on Campus.” It was published Tuesday on this newspaper’s op-ed page. By late Wednesday the number had grown to more than 80 signers.

The Middlebury Statement by these professors, some without tenure, is an impor­tant event.

Their statement doesn’t merely defend free speech and inquiry; It explicitly rejects ar­guments by the left justifying speech suppression, such as their notion that certain ideas are themselves a form of “vio­lence.” The Middlebury dis­senters assert: “Exposure to controversial points of view does not constitute violence.” Readers who find that sen­tence self-evident cannot imagine how far eroded free-speech’s foundations have be­come. The, Middlebury State­ment is a thumb in the dike. Its signers deserve wide sup­port, not least from political non-conservatives.

Write henninger@wsj.com.

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