By Kevin Cullen at The Boston Globe
How can we miss the holy rollers at the Catholic Action League when they won’t go away? Last time we heard from our local God squad, they were having the vapors over Ireland’s prime minister, Enda Kenny, receiving an honorary degree from Boston College.
To its credit, BC ignored the zealots, not to mention the archbishop, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who refused to attend commencement because those heathens at The Heights had the audacity to invite someone who chose to obey his nation’s Supreme Court and create an exception to Ireland’s prohibition against abortion when a woman’s life is endangered.
Now the Catholic Action League is back, like a bad cold. Or is it a bad penny? I can never keep that straight.
Anyway, this year the caped Crusaders opposed Secretary of State John Kerry being BC’s commencement speaker. Now, personally, I don’t like that Kerry is a Yale man, but that’s no reason for not letting the guy speak.
In fairness to the Catholic Action League, they’re hardly the only group of absolutists who want to censor people. This commencement season may be the worst yet when it comes to self-righteous, self-appointed censors doing to the First Amendment what Mitt Romney’s dog did to that poor car roof.
It’s hard to decide who’s worse: the sanctimonious bowdlerizers who insist on silencing those they disagree with or the craven bureaucrats who give in to such hissy fits.
Nearby, Smith College told International Monetary Fund director (and presumed capitalist pig) Christine Lagarde to get lost; Brandeis told women’s rights advocate and Islam critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali to take a hike; and students and faculty at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education demanded that some obscure state senator from Colorado be disinvited because he favors a certain type of education reform.
Elsewhere, Rutgers told former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to scram; Haverford College disinvited former University of California, Berkeley chancellor Robert Birgeneau because he was mean to the Occupy movement; and Pasadena City College hit the trifecta when it invited, disinvited, then re-invited Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black after a sex tape surfaced.
Harvey Silverglate, the great civil libertarian, is appalled by the censorship crowd and their enablers, what he calls a shower of “academic hypocrites, Stalinists, and poseurs.”
Silverglate says young people about to enter the real world should have their sensibilities challenged and even offended. After all, that sort of thing happens every day. It’s called life. Silverglate traces attempts to censor campus speakers back to student revolts over the Vietnam War. He and his colleagues at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education annually chronicle what they call “disinvitation season.” Silverglate says: “It’s not the urge to censor that’s changed. It’s the failure of the academy to rise to the protection of free speech and academic freedom.”
Silverglate took heart seeing William Bowen, the former Princeton president and replacement speaker at Haverford, get a standing ovation after denouncing censorship. “The pro-academic freedom, pro-liberty folks need on-campus leadership to coalesce into a force capable of reversing the tide of censorship,” Silverglate said. “That leadership won’t appear until donors stop giving endless streams of money to feed the very profitable beast that currently supports an army of useless and destructive bureaucrats.”
When I graduated from UMass Amherst 33 years ago, I goofed off with my buddies Danny Guidera from Brooklyn and Chimp from Milton, and we ignored the speakers. Danny wore a plastic chicken on his head. Chimp yelled nonsense at the bigshots on stage.
Chimp went on to a long, distinguished career in academia, which only proves that the academy can make a monkey out of anybody.