4. The inmates take over the asylum Given the Muzzle-friendly campus milieu, it's small wonder that students even turned the cudgel of censorship onto themselves. Radical anti-immigration activist (and Minuteman Project founder) Jim Gilchrist was invited to speak at an October 17 Harvard symposium. Days before the event, notwithstanding that Gilchrist had spoken at Harvard Law less than a year prior, the Harvard Undergraduate Legal Committee rescinded the invitation. Justifying his censorial urges, a student expressed concern "about the broader national implications of legitimizing these extremist views with the Harvard name." These undergrads had clearly drunk Harvard's corporatized Kool-Aid.
Yale, too, is a private institution that, in theory, honors free expression. Yale University Press (YUP) blatantly flouted this ethos when in August it decided to censor a series of cartoons — in a book about the cartoons.
To recap: in 2005, Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten printed cartoons satirizing the Muslim prophet Muhammad. Reactionaries protested; other papers reprinted in response; scattered violence ensued. Four years later, Brandeis University historian Jytte Klausen wrote about it: The Cartoons That Shook the World, published by YUP.
Claiming to fear a reprise of violence, YUP censored the depictions of Muhammad in this book, ironically, about censorship. John Donatich, YUP director, told the New York Times that he didn't want "blood on my hands."
The American Association of University Professors, along with 11 other free-speech advocates, issued a statement excoriating YUP, invoking Ben Franklin's warning that those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety will get neither liberty nor safety. (Disclosure: one of the statement's signees was the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, of which I'm the board chairman.) Professor Klausen viewed the betrayal with apparent irony: "I became a chapter in my own book," she said at an October 1 talk.
Slate's Christopher Hitchens got closer to the heart of YUP's betrayal in response to Donatich's "blood on my hands" rationalization: "What a cause of shame that the campus of Nathan Hale [a Revolutionary War hero and Yale alum] should have pre-emptively run up the white flag and then cringingly taken the blood guilt of potential assassins and tyrants upon itself."
The foundational liberties for which patriots fought are now under siege from within. Today's enemy: modern universities' urge to "control the message" and eliminate potential threats to the bottom line.
Harvey Silverglate can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Kyle Smeallie and Maria Romero, Silverglate's research assistants, contributed to this article.