Charles Murray is a conservative political scientist and author, perhaps most famous for his book The Bell Curve, co-written with Richard Herrnstein. I confess that I haven’t read it, but I’ve certainly read enough to about it to know that Murray and Herrnstein’s hereditarian views of IQ have been strongly attacked by some other scholars, largely on the Left. Further, from what I’ve read of the criticism from people I respect, the book seems misguided and plagued with misconceptions about genetics (this, of course, is hearsay). But Murray has written many other books and articles about other matters, and in respectable venues like the New York Times and The New Republic.
Yesterday afternoon, Murray was scheduled to speak at Vermont’s traditionally liberal Middlebury College; he was invited by the campus chapter of the American Enterprise Institute Club. That, of course, got up the nose of many, and, according to the school newspaper, over 450 alumni protested, considering Murray’s appearance at the liberal school as “immoral and unethical.” A section of their letter gives the recurrent, tiresome, and incorrect claim that “free speech” doesn’t include “hate speech”. When you read sentences like the first one below, you know that you’re about to see a justification for censorship (my emphases):
This is not an issue of freedom of speech. We think it is necessary to allow a diverse range of perspectives to be voiced at Middlebury. In college, we learned through thoughtful, compassionate and often difficult discussions inside the classroom and out — conversations in which our beliefs were questioned and our assumptions challenged. We fully support the core liberal arts principle that contact with other intellectual viewpoints and life experiences than one’s own is integral to a beneficial education. [JAC: when you see this, you know a “but” will follow immediately.]
However, in this case we find the principle does not apply, due to not only the nature, but also the quality, of Dr. Murray’s scholarship. He paints arguments for the biological and intellectual superiority of white men with a thin veneer of quantitative rhetoric and academic authority.
. . . We, the undersigned, want to make clear to Old Chapel that the decision to bring Dr. Murray to campus is unacceptable and unethical. It is a decision that directly endangers members of the community and stains Middlebury’s reputation by jeopardizing the institution’s claims to intellectual rigor and compassionate inclusivity.
As he took the stage in Wilson Hall, students booed, rose and turned their backs to the stage before reading a statement in unison. Students broke into chants of “Hey hey, ho ho, Charles Murray has got to go,” and “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Charles Murray go away!”
Murray, wearing a suit and tie, stood at the lectern and waited to be heard. The shouts continued:
“Your message is hatred; we cannot tolerate it!”
“Charles Murray, go away; Middlebury says no way!”
After about 25 minutes, and when it became clear the chants would not abate, faculty came onstage and announced plans to move the lecture to a different location. The administrators said Murray’s speech would be live-streamed so he could speak without interruption. Questions for Murray to answer could be submitted using a Twitter hashtag, they said.
But worse things happened after the talk was over, and these were confirmed by College officials:
Professor Allison Stanger was assaulted and her neck was injured when someone pulled her hair as she tried to shield Murray from the 20 or 30 people who attacked the duo outside the McCullough Student Center, said Bill Burger, a vice president of communications at Middlebury College.
Burger said people in the crowd, made up of students and “outside agitators,” wore masks as they screamed at Murray
. . . . About half an hour after the event ended, Burger said, the two, accompanied by a college administrator and two public safety officers, tried to leave the building via a back entrance and hurry to a car. But protesters had surrounded various entrances and swarmed to the fleeing Murray and Stanger as they exited, he said.
Once Murray and Stanger were inside the car — and after Stanger had been assaulted — the crowd began jumping on the hood and banging on the windows, according to Burger. The driver tried to inch out of the parking space but the angry crowd surrounded the vehicle and tried to keep it from leaving.
Burger said someone threw a stop sign attached to a heavy cement base in front of the car. It finally got free of the crowd and then left campus..
Talk about “endangering members of the community”! Murray would have offered words, not fists or metal objects, and had the mob left him alone, the only thing injured would have been some students’ feelings.
Those who consider words to be violence might ponder the actual violence that their mob behavior inspired: violence that was immediate, deliberate, and intended. Middlebury College and its students should be ashamed of themselves. Regardless of how odious Murray’s views were, the best way to deal with them is let him speak, ask him questions, or stage peaceful, non-disruptive protests or counterspeeches.
When did college students become so ignorant and twisted?