Miller ’70 P’02: Fascism and the open campus

Guest Columnist
Thursday, October 31, 2013

I went to scores of seminars and talks during my four years as an undergraduate at Brown, but the one I will never forget took place on the evening of Nov. 30, 1966. The speaker, a Brown alum, had been invited by the Faunce House Board of Governors to take part in its fall lecture series. But once his name was announced, a storm of objections forced the board to withdraw its invitation. Counterprotests ensued citing academic freedom and arguing that our campus should be open to all views, even — and perhaps especially — to those a majority of its members found repugnant.

The speaker was George Lincoln Rockwell ’40, leader of the American Nazi Party.

A new campus group called “Open Mind” was formed. Once recognized by the University, it re-invited Rockwell to campus. Rockwell spoke to a packed house in Alumnae Hall. Multiple groups picketed his appearance, including dozens of Holocaust survivors, many of whom were then only in their 30s and 40s. The memories were fresh, and the scars were real. As I walked through the crowd with a few friends, one of the picketers came up to me and asked us why we wanted to hear such a “monster.” To underline the point, he rolled up his sleeve and pointed to the numbers tattooed on his forearm. We all knew where those numbers came from.

Once inside, a hushed crowd listened to the full range of Rockwell’s charismatic style. He was charming, funny and, frankly, disarming. He knew how to break the tension in the crowd, telling us “the last time I was in Alumnae Hall, come to think of it, I wasn’t sitting. I was hanging onto a girl about half-stewed at a dance.” Everybody laughed, and I did, too. But as the evening wore on, I learned a lesson. True fascism doesn’t begin with the shouting, fist-shaking tyrants we see in newsreels of the 1930s. It enters with charm and wit. Its strategy is to beguile and divide, to offer easy answers to problems like crime and poverty. Blame them on the “others” — the blacks, the Jews, the Commies who are spoiling our otherwise virtuous society. It then promises to heal those lesions by cutting them out, figuratively at first, and then literally once the masses are firmly under control.

For the first time in my life, I understood the allure of fascism, the reason that “good people” could have supported the likes of Franco, Mussolini and Hitler. I also understood why the notion that “it couldn’t happen here” is hopelessly naive. It could happen here, and it most certainly would happen if we forgot the lessons of history, lessons that Rockwell brought to life with a sinister smile that evening in Alumnae Hall. I’m glad I was there. I’m glad the talk was allowed to go on. And I’m glad Brown was an open campus where those lessons could be learned in the most personal way possible.

Tuesday’s shout-down of another speaker makes me wonder about that. Ray Kelly, whatever his misdeeds, is no George Lincoln Rockwell. Rockwell’s idea of racial profiling wasn’t “stop-and-frisk.” It was “round up and deport.” Kelly has been accused of fascism, but Rockwell actually was a fascist — and a racist — and was proud of it on both counts. Yet the Brown community of the 1960s opened its doors to him, to avowed communists, and, at the height of the Vietnam war, to anti-war activists as well as the generals in charge of that war — like Earl Wheeler, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was a lively and vibrant place.

The crowd who managed to silence a speaker yesterday accomplished something, to be sure. But it wasn’t a blow against racism, fascism or police oppression. It was a step towards a closed campus where mob rule determines who can speak and who will be shouted down. It was a shameful day. And it deprived every member of our community of the chance to hear Kelly and decide for themselves whether his policing methods are indeed the first steps of a Rockwell-like campaign against minorities and the poor in America’s greatest city. To those individuals, let me put it plainly. Yours was an act of cowardice and fear, unworthy of any of the causes you claim to hold dear. I hope President Christina Paxson will show the courage to stand up to you, to invite Kelly back and to give every member of this community the chance to have a “Rockwell moment” of the sort I had in 1966.


Ken Miller ’70 P’02 is a professor of biology.


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  1. So Jenny Li and associate Bolshevik thugs are Brown. Are you going to go after Professor Miller now? Is he also making your body not feel safe? Is he also a racist, a privileged white heterosexist hegemony who has no authority to speak on this topic?

  2. I love liberals so much. I also love fascists for like liberals if they do not like something they literally attack it shout it down and shut it up.

    What me listen? Nah! That’s for reasonable people, not me.

    Was it David Horowitz who wrote, “Inside every liberal is a totalitarian”? Based on what we’ve just seen at Brown it appears Horowitz is right.

  3. If I continue to volunteer as an alumni interviewer for Brown, it will be because of people like Ken Miller (and the profound impact he had on me as a professor) and in spite of yesterday’s events.

  4. This is extremely powerful. Thank you, Professor Miller.

  5. This is such an incredible and important piece. So well stated. Thank you for this Professor Miller.

  6. it simply does not follow that oppressed and marginalized groups are at all capable of ushering in a fascistic society. Also, this whole affair is made impossibly more difficult to deal with as an alum given how casual faculty like you and administrators are in brushing aside the suffering of students at the hands of a thug like Ray Kelly as rhetorical gestures to some grand leftist ideology. It’s not rhetorical to say that walking the streets of New York as a black man (even as a Brown alum) is a wager on whether or not I’ll find my self on the business end of a police baton.

    • President Paxson just held an entire session during which all kinds of views were expressed. Warm-and-fuzzy emotion-filled kumbaya sessions where everyone talks about their feelings are a hallmark at Brown. Yet someone faculty and administrators are “brushing aside the suffering of students”?

    • overstate the situation much?

  7. I wasn’t there Professor Miller, but I really don’t understand why you are so proud of what happened. Does it not occur to you how what you said and did might have added to the already unfathomable pain of that individual with the tattoo on their arm? Please understand that I respect you a lot and don’t mean any insult by what I write, but is your prioritization of having your own “Rockwell moment” over the needs of someone with infinitely more at stake in that dialogue not an example of the most pernicious form of narcissism and self-righteousness–that which prioritizes the freedom (of speech) of certain individuals over the freedoms (from fear, persecution, etc.) of others? I wasn’t aware of this incident, but from the information you provided I can’t call this a proud moment in Brown’s history. In fact I’m shocked that this happened.

    • Deliver Thee says:

      Our Father in heaven,hallowed be your name.Your kingdom come,your will be done,on earth, as it is in heaven.Give us this day our daily bread,and forgive us our debts,as we also have forgiven our debtors.And lead us not into temptation,but deliver us from evil.For thine is the kingdom, the powerand the gloryAmen

    • Just a Thought says:

      Interesting. Let’s take the implicit assumption on the prioritization of freedom from fear/persecution of certain groups over free speech of individuals in the other direction:

      Let’s supposed we’re still in the 60s and white students still have this irrational fear of black students as violent criminals. The few black students in the school want to start a talk on bringing more black students into the campus. The white students protest against the talk, arguing that the mere presence of more black students would put fear of violence in their hearts. There is that one white student, however, who think that the black students might have something to say. According to our initial assumption, the black students should be shut out from talking because the group of white students do not deserve to be persecuted by the black students’ speech (and that lone white student is just an individual who would be a “narcissist” for wanting to hear the other side).

      You can argue that the group white students are just wrong or as I said “irrational” in their fear here. But what makes them wrong? You (and certaintly they) can’t answer that question without having dialogue, without hearing the other side, without free speech.

      p.s. You can also argue about the difference of each person’s stake in the dialogue. I have no doubt that POC have a lot of stake in the Ray Kelly talk. You could also rationally argue, however, that the white students in my hypothetical situation also have a lot of stake (they think their lives are at line!) in the black student talk.

      • Ok, I know this has been said before about a billion times, but what happened on Tuesday DID NOT PREVENT dialogue, rather it very effectively shifted it and fed it, resulting in what is probably one of the most important community dialogues we’ve had here in generations.

        Also, I’ve wondered a lot about what to do about fascists. I’ve met a lot of them in fact. Living in Romania within a minority Hungarian community, I was confronted every day with what I believe were absolutely horrendous levels of racism against the Roma community and against Jews. I spent a week camping in the mountains with a group of 15 year olds, many of whom were proudly self-proclaimed neo-fascists. After telling one of them that I am descended from European Jews, he proceeded to sing to me the Italian fascist anthem and tell me about how he thought Hitler had the right idea. I came at this conversation thinking that I just had to explain to him why he was wrong, but it very quickly became apparent to me that there is no point in trying to counter his hate with reason. The source of his views were not mistaken facts or simple ignorance about the world–he was actually speaking to me from a different world with a different set of facts, in which ethnic Hungarians are the victims of all kinds of hate crimes perpetrated by Gypsies and Jews. We live in a world so full of “facts” that are so easily accessible that almost anyone can find ways to justify believing almost anything. What was needed, and what was absent, was a responsible adult to tell these teens that racism is never okay, and providing these kids with some moral framework. Instead, the adult figures were actually condoning their kids’ racism–mostly through their silence, though the older generation also loved telling Gypsy and Jew jokes. (Perhaps you can see where my reaction comes from when Professor Miller talks about the importance of being able to laugh with a fascist!)

        My point here is that we need to draw lines. Hard ones, out of respect for those who are targeted. Once we have lines, by all means let’s talk. But not before.

        • So a hard line would be what? The Police Commissioner of New York City is not allowed to present prepared remarks on campus and then have to answer questions?

          • A hard line would be our University spokespeople condemning racism in all its forms, and recognizing the ways in which it affects our community and the world at large, which they do in general, but which they initially did not do in connection with this event. The story of Ray Kelly is not just a story of “proactive policing.” Failing to recognize this is failing to draw lines.

          • So the events should have proceeded as what? 1)Ray Kelly is invited to speak on campus 2) speech is announced 3)University issues an official statement saying Ray Kelly is a racist? It’s pretty clear that many faculty and administrators recognize that Ray Kelly’s story is more than “proactive policing.” Unless you want to tell me that Paxson and Chait think that Ray Kelly is just a swell guy? So where exactly did they fail? That they did not protest in ways which were acceptable to you?

          • I appreciate what you’re saying. But I do not agree with the way that these protestors think that we can enact change in our community.
            I think that what happened is pretty impressive and has sparked thought provoking discussion about an issue that needs to be discussed. But at the same time, is the way that we treated Ray Kelly a sustainable way of enacting change in our community? If we want to lead change we need to earn the respect of those who we wish to change. Currently, we are being seen as silly liberal teenagers who are taking themselves too seriously and getting a little carried away. If we allow for an open forum (with the people that are the cause of these issues : Kelly… not just with Brown students), where we can discuss these issues constructively, I think it will help us achieve the goals that we have set for our society. I don’t think totalitarianism is respected, constructive, or the best way to prevent the injustices that are occurring.

          • Hi Anon, I think that’s the million dollar question: is the conversation (and, of equal if not far greater importance, the movement and feeling of empowerment) that protestors and their allies have done so much to bring to the forefront sustainable, and will it lead to positive change?

          • If you can’t win the debate on the merits, shut down the conversation? You already lost moron!

          • Joseph Miller says:

            It’s not a conversation if it’s only one side speaking. If Ray Kelly is wrong, the bullies at Brown should not be afraid of his free expression. Instead they shouted him down so nobody could hear his free expression. It’s censorship, and allow me to bring you in on a little secret: All censors believe they’re acting morally. The self-righteousness of the protesters is not special, it’s typical. Until they learn that a “discussion” has more than one side, they won’t get respect.

          • So many leftist buzzwords: “conversation”, “empowerment”, “sustainable”, “positive change”. You forgot “transformative”. All BS.

          • This is where we under the long march of the leftists. The primary role of academia is now the policing of thought.

          • I see now. You don’t want to discuss the “protest” at all. Objecting to it is on the other side of that hard line you don’t want to talk about. Again, what a stinking pile of anti-free speech BS.

        • Shouting the speaker off the stage “didn’t prevent dialogue”? It certainly prevented the half of the dialogue the shouters didn’t want to hear.

          So what are the facts about crimes against Hungarians in Romania by Gypsies and Jews?

        • “what happened on Tuesday DID NOT PREVENT dialogue”

          That would be humorous, if it were not also so Orwellian.

          A person, asked to come and speak, was prevented from speaking. Yet you somehow think that to be a form of dialogue?

          Truly frightening.

        • “what happened on Tuesday DID NOT PREVENT dialogue, rather it very effectively shifted it”

          Yes, to how you and people like you want to control speech.

          “My point here is that we need to draw lines. Hard ones, out of respect for those who are targeted. Once we have lines, by all means let’s talk. But not before.”

          If we don’t talk BEFORE drawing those lines, how do they get drawn and who is the “we” who will draw them?

          Shorter Trupin: ” ‘We’ restrict free speech, and then everyone can talk ‘freely’.” What a stinking pile.

    • IB HL English Forever says:

      Have you ever read the Handmaid’s Tale, by (renowned feminist author) Margaret Atwood? It included a long discussion on the difference between freedom to and freedom from, and (to make a really long story short) how in a dystopian world you may gain freedom from but lose freedom to. I’m guessing you haven’t, but you should. It was eye-opening to me, and fits exactly in the context of this conversation.

    • People do not have a “freedom from fear”. Letting this man talk was not persecuting anyone.

      Having an Ivy League diploma was once a great honor. Now it’s a warning to potential employers that you probably have few independent thoughts and can’t stand for others to do better.

  8. I am absolutely horrified and disgusted by this article. How dare you invoke triggering language and experiences related to Jewish oppression and Nazism in relation to a perfectly legal demonstration against racist policies.

    This is EXACTLY the privileged, insensitive language that my peers are attempting to call out at Brown. How dare you Professor Miller. How dare you compare suffering for the sake of making a point. How dare you undermine the violation and disenfranchisement of minority communities in New York City by saying “Ray Kelly is no George Lincoln Rockwell.” How dare you, given all your incredible privilege, call out the experiences of others as undeserving of being vocalized and heard.

    The fact that you and your peers were complicit in bringing Rockwell to campus is your own failing. The fact students on campus today are more vocal and stand up for their rights and safety is a proud evolution. I am ashamed that you are a professor at my university. I am ashamed that this article was published. This is by far the most disgracing moment of this whole week of events.

    • Troll

      • jeeringatjuice says:

        Moonjuice, your comment is exactly the kind of overblown, hateful vitriolic speech that gave people like Rockwell a platform in the first place. You should be utterly ashamed of your own boundless ineptitude.

    • Hunter S Keeney III says:

      As a proud alumnus of Brown, I’m ashamed that our clearly incompetent admissions office has allowed students like you to share the same diploma as the scholars that once shared these hallowed grounds.

      Six generations of my family have graduated from and supported, endowed, and sponsored your very education. Thank you for bringing this sour taste to my mouth and those that love and support our alma mater.

    • “How dare you, given all your incredible privilege, call out the experiences of others as undeserving of being vocalized and heard.”

      Hypocrisy, much?

    • White privilege – can you see it?

      Nope. I took my meds this morning.

      It used to be that the intelligent and highly educated stood for free thought. Now they are acting as its worst enemy.

      Politics in America is conservatives making reasoned arguments and liberals screaming at them and calling them names.

    • Embarrassed Rhode Island Resid says:

      I am absolutely horrified and disgusted by your response. However, I stand by your right to say it. That is the difference. If people could use the up and down buttons to shut you up so that by pushing down enough your thoughts and comments would never be seen – that is impacting freedom of speech.
      Instead of being able to see what you think, considering your argument , and responding (or debating), I would be saying what you think and say are wrong (at least in my opinion hypothetically) and therefore you have no right to say it and be heard. Thus my shouting you down or pushing the down button to remove you is not only justified but something to celebrate and be proud of doing. (This does not even include the harassment and threats that are often employed as tactics by those who consider themselves liberals. I would argue that they are not true liberals (more like Fascists and that they give true liberals a bad name)).
      This leads down the slippery path of no right to think it and then to re-education camps and other things in history that are lessons that need to be never forgotten.
      I am ashamed that the students had to shout down and use Fascist tactics instead of listening to what Ray Kelly had to say and then use the extensive Q&A time to debate him and maybe make a true impact on the situation or at least enlighten those who attended and may not have been sure of the issue.

    • Thank you for making this so clear! The only solution to avoid “triggering” victims of atrocities is to never discuss the type of atrocities they experienced. Any discussion of them, after all, might “trigger” unpleasant emotions and humans have a right to never feel unpleasant emotions, even in reaction to actually unpleasant experience or knowledge. How dare Steven Spielberg make “Schindler’s List” knowing that he might “trigger” victims in the video store?

      In order to establish this moral utopia of good feelings, we must keep in mind the motto of holocaust survivors :


      (pre-emptive note for the comprehension impaired : the above is parody, not my sincere view.)

    • Richard Johnston says:

      “Perfectly legal.” Hmmm, today’s challenge is to come up with things that were “perfectly legal” that decent human beings should find abhorrent. The professor’s most excellent point not only stands, but is reinforced by this demonstration of intolerance of an alternative viewpoint. Would you support the “perfectly legal” shouting down an African-American mother who, because of concern for her child’s saftey, supported stop-and-frisk? I am neither horrified nor disgusted by this post. It smells of the tactic of yelling “hate speech,” a tactic invoked when a sound counterargument is lacking.

  9. Interestingly, ’66 was five years before Brown merged with the Pembroke. Two years later, black students walked-out due to a lack of support from the University (one concern being the number of black students enrolled). The changing make-up of campus might have contributed to why Ray Kelly’s talk was met differently than Rockwell’s. It seems inappropriate to dismiss these voices and look back at the fascist lectures of 1966 as the good old days.

    • The only voices dismissed were the ones not allowed to speak at the Kelly lecture. Ya’ll keep talking about the wrong thing.

      • Or the voices Brown chooses not to bring to campus. To escape the demonization from the Fox News crowd.

  10. Zander Berg '13 says:

    Professor Miller has it wrong. He thinks he learned that fascism “could happen here;” in reality, he participated in a real and present act of it.

    These moments when members of the ruling racial caste can come together and laugh, secure in the knowledge that THEY are safe, that THEY are free from the specter of mass violence– these are the moments that give fascists the air of legitimacy, the seat in public discourse, that are essential if their hateful words are ever to become hateful action.

    What does it say about the Brown University of 1966 that a roomful of students could laugh lightheartedly at the jokes of someone who literally wanted to murder their Jewish fellow students?

    • What is says is that Ken Miller found himself laughing but had enough insight and self-awareness to realize that his initial response may have been wrong.

      • So Miller notice that Rockwell could tell a joke.

        Rockwell might also have loved his children dearly. There is nothing wrong with that, and much that is good.

        But it doesn’t make him any less evil, or wrong.

    • ” he participated in a real and present act of it.”

      Offensive speech = fascism

      Yow. Given your senior status I can only conclude that either Brown has failed miserably, or succeeded sinisterly.

  11. Just because you wrote the world’s most read biology text book and are probably responsible for a 2 year higher global life expectancy, does’t mean you own my body.

    In fact, you own only 2/77ths of my body.

  12. BrownStudent(in both ways) says:

    Just another white man trying to speak for the actions of people of color. Ken Miller, as a privileged white male, you will never understand or encounter racism, racial profiling, or systemic oppression. Please take a seat, or open up some books, You can start with The Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

    • Professor Miller, please report to re-education camp immediately!

      • Or join Fox News. Its Prep School Softees’ favorite channel. Plenty of free speech going on out there.

    • bellicosebean says:

      Likewise, professor, I resent your presumptuous stance on the daily travails of legumes, which you purport to have intimate knowledge of. You, sir, are NO LEGUME, and could thus never begin to contemplate our marginalization at the hands of so-called ‘superior’ phyla.

    • sickofliberalbull says:

      ok, then you should require a doctor to have cancer in order to treat you for it. so dumb.

    • There have been 20 violent, non-ambiguously racially motivated black-on-white crimes this year in the US. There has been one violent, non-ambiguously racially motivated white-on-black crime. If the two races were equally likely to be violently racist, that second number would be 100.

      Some day it will no longer be a minority of whites who dare to call out this nonsense for what it is. Everyone knows who’s got an advantage in getting into schools, getting scholarships, and finding jobs. Everyone knows it’s not “racial profiling” putting black men in prison.

  13. 2016 activist says:

    Professor Miller,

    Calling individuals who stood up in the kelly lecture cowards is counter productive and inaccurate. Counter productive because names simplifies a complex dialogue to mud slinging, and inaccurate because the courage it takes to stand up to systemic oppression is unimaginable.

    You can disagree with weather the methodology the protestors used was the best solution to the problem of racial profiling Ray Kelly has set up, and have a discussion about the future of activism at brown, but to paraphrase Tricia Rose last night, dealing in shame is the wrong response to this event.

    • Deliver Thee says:

      How is the weather, you illiterate snipe?

    • Like calling Ray Kelly a racist?

    • From what I saw, the “protest” was a lot closer to mud-slinging that to a complex dialogue.

      Why don’t y’all read something that the faculty and staff at Brown wouldn’t approve of? If it’s wrong, you can just refute it, right?

    • Joseph Miller says:

      “Complex dialogue”? No, a mob of overgrown children screaming at a solitary, quiet and composed professional. Dialogue is two ways, like for instance a lecture with a Q&A session at the end. Screaming at someone to keep them from speaking is not “dialogue”.

      It certainly was cowardly, too. In your imaginary feelings-world the screaming, fearless mob of people was an oppressed minority. Likewise, the lone man who was shouted down was “systemic oppression” and “unimaginable” courage was needed to shout at him like spoiled toddlers. Absolutely ridiculous. It does not take courage to abandon civil discourse and get riled up with mob-mentality to bully one calm person. SHAME.

  14. Rachel Bishop says:

    There have been some vitriolic pieces published this week, but this letter is truly in a league of its own. Apparently Dr. Miller’s idea of an open campus is one in which holocaust survivors are forced to listen to a University-sanctioned defense of their people’s genocide, so that he could learn something from this “charming” Nazi. To me it seems the only thing “shameful” here, Dr. Miller, is that this university employs someone who would spew such thoughtless hate.

    • sosickofliberals says:

      hahahahahahha you might want to learn how to read, because a man as smart as Ken Miller made a point that just went completely over your head. he used the fact that the Nazi was charming to show how FACISM isn’t easily recognizable and can be hidden by outward charm. you liberals just use flowery, sensationalist vocabulary like “vitriol” without taking time to understand the subtlety and complexity of these issues. moron.

    • Inviting a fascist leader to the university does mean that the university endorses his/her views. That event was not a “defense” of the holocaust anymore than Ray Kelly’s event was a “defense” of racism. If Brown only brought speakers who shared the views of the students, then I think that would be a great disservice to the academic integrity and progress of the school.

    • should a university invite a man who runs a nation who kills gay people

    • “made to endure”

      The University lined them up, marched them into the audience and made them watch? I think not.

      Holocaust survivors live with the reality of Nazism every day, if they cared to they already knew of Rockwell, and his ilk.

      The phase never forget means something. Drawing their enemies out into the cold light of day is not a disservice.

      Your argument is as meretricious as it is hyperbolic.

  15. KP, Proud POC, Class '14 says:

    Thank you Professor Miller for taking a courageous stance on this issue. and Brunonian

  16. KP, Proud POC, Class '14 says:

    Thank you Professor Miller for taking a courageous stance on this issue**

  17. sickofliberalbull says:

    Jenny Li is the epitome of what is wrong with liberals. “They didn’t
    cancel the lecture, so we cancelled it for them.” I’m glad you feel you
    have the authority to absolutely determine what is right and wrong and
    what should and shouldn’t happen.

    • '`*-.,_,-*'`*~-.,.~*'*-.,_,-*' says:

      “Jenny Li is the epitome of what is wrong with liberals … I’m glad you feel you have the authority to absolutely determine what is right and wrong”

      lol good job there bro. you managed to contradict yourself in under 256 characters!

      • sosickofliberals says:

        he did? are are you just stupid? because the point he made is that, because nobody knows absolutely if stop-and-frisk is right or wrong, we should open it up for debate. never knew my fellow brown students struggled so much with reading comprehension.

  18. ken miller you are part of the ivory tower. you are a white cisgender male. you are part of a complicit system. as is the brown daily herald. i feel sick with anger. this has nothing to do with free speech and an open campus. you are scum.

    • Huh… and yet the only people we can attack for their race, sex, sexual preferences, etc without losing our jobs are the…. white cisgender males!

  19. Brave. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  20. Ken Miller says he’s proud that the talk was allowed to go on, and that he’s proud that he learned such a lesson from that event. But is he also proud of the suffering and fear that the tattooed survivor (and others protesting) suffered during the entire debacle? Is he proud that he saw that survivor’s tattooed arm only to mention that sobering sight in passing to make a rhetorical point (“Hey guys! Not discounting the horror of the Holocaust or anything (I saw real concentration camp tattoos y’know), but…”) decades later? There’s a whole lot about this piece that either feels exploitative or dismissive, and it’s actually causing me physical unease.

  21. STFU Miller says:

    Ken Miller needs to check his privilege. Really? He found Rockwell ” charming, funny and, frankly, disarming.” That’s probably because he can’t empathize with the Jewish people who were slaughtered by the millions, because he isn’t Jewish. He also can’t empathize with African Americans, and Latinos because he grew up in “good neighborhoods” where racial profiling wasn’t a common practice by the police. He is obviously wondering why Brown students “over-reacted.” Well Ken Miller, that’s probably because unlike you who grew up a straight white male, you haven’t the most remote idea of what it is people of color go through everyday! You have zero authority on this subject because you have never been a victim of racial profiling, and zero authority over calling student protesters cowards when all they did was stand as a group to send a clear message to a racist man that infringes on the rights of their minority families back home. It disgusts me how you would give your opinion on such a sensitive topic, trying to shake it off as an overreaction, when you cannot relate to any form of oppression or discrimination, because you grew up a straight white male! I wonder if you would have gone to the Rockwell event oh so casually as you did, since you weren’t affected by his beliefs thanks to your privilege, if your family was torn by the holocaust, murdered, and burned!

    • sosickofliberals says:

      how dumb are you, or can you just not read? he used that example and thought process to show why facism isn’t necessarily overtly evil and can be easily disguised in wit and charm. nobody needs to check their privilege, you braindead hippy. you need to learn how to read and comprehend.

      • Grammar Hawk says:

        Apparently you need to learn and read, since you have no sense of grammar. Capitalize the first letter of sentences idiot. You obviously don’t go to Brown.

        • Pointing out his grammar, good way to add to the argument. And wow, your last sentence was probably one of the most elitist and ignorant things I’ve ever heard come from a Brown student. I’m honestly ashamed to go to the same school as you.

    • You missed it. You missed his point completely.

    • I want to ask you, have you ever been directly affected by Ray Kelly’s stop-and-frisk policy? I’m guessing you’re a Brown student, so you probably don’t have to worry about being frisked on a daily basis. Yet you feel strongly enough about this issue to fight for it. I’m not saying that Miller doesn’t have privilege, he certainly does. But to claim that he can’t empathize with the victims of the holocaust is quite absurd. Then by that train of logic, nobody could except the families of those who actually went through it. No one can ever fully understand all the emotions, feelings, and hardships that come along with it, but one does not have to experience an event in order to empathize with the people who are going through it.

    • What is it “people of color” go through every day, exactly?

      They are given preferences in hiring and school admissions.
      The media, academia, and government all work hard to boost their group’s self-esteem and let their achievements be known, while suppressing contrary efforts.
      They are much less likely to be attacked by whites than whites are to be attacked by them.

      • '`*-.,_,-*'`*~-.,.~*'*-.,_,-*' says:

        oh my god lol. whatttttt

        look, i’m not really into racial politics (or social politics in general). frankly i find much of the talk — within academia, at least — to be something of a pity party; a masturbatory intellectual exercise in mustering up and justifying the greatest possible outrage; a misguided effort to eliminate vaguely offensive but innocuous language from our speech because it could possibly hurt someone’s feelings somewhere. in other words, i don’t think that social activists always choose their battles wisely.

        however, the motivation is very real: that racism is alive and well and there is much progress to be made in constructing a society where all races are on a level playing field for success, are able to go about their lives w/o facing frequent discrimination, aggression, and (pardon me for this annoying academic jargon) microaggression.

        your attempt to reduce racial dynamics to f**king affirmative action and “self-esteem” campaigns is absolutely delusional. when you talk about “school admissions” (lol, i bet you’re one of those idiots who believe that black kids totally stole their spots @ harvard), you’re already talking about a group of people who were afforded a certain level of opportunity in the first place. you’re assuming that everyone started out w/ the same chance of success in their education up through secondary school. you’re assuming that AA policies on paper at companies outweigh the prejudices of individual hirers and managers. on top of that, you neglect to acknowledge what burdens even a beneficiary of AA may face as a direct result of it.

        but this isn’t the time to go into detail about that. this isn’t a discussion about affirmative action (which i don’t support, for the record). the point is that something like AA is only a very small piece of the picture of how differently people are treated based on race. it comes across as an ad hoc justification for your bitter racism against people of color, or at least your stubborn refusal to acknowledge it: “look, guys, i can think of one example of POC being treated in an ostensibly privileged way!!”

        i admit that i’m speaking as a white girl who obviously cannot even begin to relate to the experience of racial discrimination. but i don’t think that necessarily undermines my credibility in this case — it just highlights how obvious all of this is to anyone who pays attention to anything at all.

        (ugh i write such wordy comments, sorry… i wish i were better at expressing myself concisely. i’m a lil intoxicated also)

        • But can you find examples of widespread discrimination against non-whites and disadvantages for them? Like, studies showing that they are less likely to be hired with the same qualifications, that non-whites face more difficulties than whites at the same socioeconomic level, that they are more likely to be mistreated based on their race than whites?

          I started out studying the possibility of racial differences as an academic exercise. I was a prospective teacher determined to figure out how to erase the achievement gap, and I thought I needed to be able to say that I had looked at the arguments for actual racial differences in intelligence and to be able to show why they didn’t hold water. That was not what I found. Human biodiversity is by far the best explanation for what we see in the world.

          This has actually led me to look more positively on affirmative action (I think bettering a certain people is a valid goal now). I’m just tired of hearing everything that goes wrong for non-whites blamed on whites. It’s not true, and the effect has been to allow the widespread demonization of whites as “racists” in spite of the fact they they show more interracial altruism and less group identity that other races.

          It would take a lot to convince me that an opinion that is as thoroughly hated and hidden as white racism really outweighs our society’s laws and our institutions’ policies and causes non-whites to do poorly in school, get pregnant as teenagers, and commit crimes.

          • '`*-.,_,-*'`*~-.,.~*'*-.,_,-*' says:

            i agree with you that society shouldn’t be blaming “everything that goes wrong for non-whites” on whites, and that white people shouldn’t be “demonized” as racists. i’m sorry that you feel victimized in those ways. i don’t, and i’m a white undergrad at brown. 😉 you might want to ask yourself whether it’s everyone else… or you.

            now let’s talk about your ‘race realism’ (i realize you didn’t use the term, thus the single quotes) for a sec here.

            i’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and believe your cute little story about how you were once a naive do-gooder who thought you could close the achievement gap blah blah blah but then you discovered that races are different!! and it’s this fascinating new world!! science, f**k yeah!!! (god knows what happened to your original interest in making a positive change in the world.)

            …so okay, whatever. dude, if you’re interested in racial biology and statistics and psychometrics and whatever else, research these things to your heart’s content. some people really like baseball; some get really into dinosaurs; some like to pore over numbers about how people of different races score on standardized tests and how to control for as many environmental factors as possible to produce a rock-solid argument that some races are just inherently better than others.

            no, really, theoretically, i can understand how an academic fascination w/ biology as it relates to race/ethnicity/etc. can stand separate from ‘racism’. in practice, nope. it never does. on this account, your most recently-commented articles include this one, another article about this story, one about a white neighborhood disallowing black trick-or-treaters, one about elementary schoolers and white privilege, one about the recent census results and which races take advantage of welfare assistance, one about charles murray (author of ‘the bell curve’) (on which you comment that you “think societies are better off mostly homogenous, and [that] there should be a black American homeland”), one about a white supremacist conference, one about eugenics(!!), one about ancient DNA and its implications on relations b/w races, one about slavery … i’ll stop now. i only skipped over two. add in your victimization complex as expressed in this subthread, and there is no question that you have an obsessive and unhealthy attitude toward race.

            don’t kid yourself. you’re angry. you are angry at non-whites, or at the very least, angry about how society in general treats non-whites as compared to how it treats you.

            i’m not going to tell you that your ~white male privilege~ means you don’t have a right to be mad about anything ever; that would be stupid. life isn’t totally fair to anyone. i don’t know what you’ve experienced and i don’t claim to. but i will tell you that there is something a little bit silly about a white male with a race-related persecution complex as extreme as yours. i would advise you to keep in mind that anger like yours is self-propagating. confirmation bias is very real, especially when it feeds into existing insecurities.

            stay well.

          • I use my Disqus account to comment on American Renaissance and stories it links to (like this one). American Renaissance is a race-realist site, so it is unsurprising that its stories are about race.

            As for being angry and having a victim complex, you’re probably right on the first point and mostly wrong on the second. It does make me angry when I hear people being dismissed simply for being white, or when I hear whites’ racism being given as the cause of (fill in the blank). It makes me angry when people talk about an American Indian ‘genocide’, when only 5% of the Amerind population loss (in North America) was due to wars, massacres, and displacement. It makes me angry when people say whites have no right to be in America, but don’t apply the same standard to the Arabs in North Africa, the Bantus in southern Africa, or the Turks in West Asia. And it makes me angry to see organizations like the SPLC talking about “hate crime” like it’s primarily a white-on-nonwhite thing when the other way around is much more common. As for a “victim complex”, I don’t think your assessment is correct. Occasionally these things make me feel sad, but for the most part all I personally have to put up with is hearing people in positions of authority saying nonsensical things and everyone pretending to agree. And as for it being obsessive, I am similarly obsessed with elementary education, philology and linguistics, Classical and Medieval religion and literature, creative writing, and child-raising.

            You seem to dismiss the truth about race – whichever it is – as being unimportant. However, I would say it is one of the biggest concerns facing us as a country. If human neurological uniformity is true, and there is no genetic difference between groups in intelligence, behavior, etc, then we have some big fixing to do. We’ve got *something* causing the social ills of the black American community, not to mention black countries in Africa and the Caribbean. If human biodiversity is true, then most of our current efforts are useless because they are based on false assumptions.

            Accepting that there are genetic differences between the races and wanting to “do good in the world” are not mutually exclusive. I simply take a different view on *how* to do good in the world than I used to. I used to think Affirmative Action was idiotic; now I think it has its place. I used to believe strongly in US military intervention in the Middle East and Africa to work for democracy; now I would restrict such interventions to the prevention of genocide. I used to whole-heartedly oppose allowing long-term welfare use; now I am more open to it. And while I don’t think our efforts are best spent trying to close the achievement gap, I do think that it is legitimate for the country to spend extra money on making sure that there’s a good supply of black doctors, lawyers, and teachers.

            If you’re interested, Those Who Can See recently did a piece on the legitimacy of Affirmative Action from a race-realist perspective.

          • '`*-.,_,-*'`*~-.,.~*'*~ (2014) says:

            yeah, i get that you can theoretically apply this sort of information to real-world policy — i just don’t get the impression that that was your goal. it seems more like you’re on a crusade to make people stop being PC and acknowledge the ~real truth~ about races (like you said, whatever that may be).

            i’ll check out the article. you should check out some chomsky. here’s a quick overview of his thoughts on race/iq; here’s a paper in which he responds to pre-‘bell curve’ herrnstein.

            “As to social importance, a correlation between race and mean I.Q. (were this shown to exist) entails no social consequences except in a racist society in which each individual is assigned to a racial category and dealt with not as an individual in his own right, but as a representative of this category … In a non-racist society, the category of race would be of no greater significance [than height].”

          • My goal is both, because I think truth is a good in itself and because the truth would allow us to pursue policies that improve rather than ignoring or worsening various social problems.

            I’ll be reading the articles you linked. In response to the quote you posted, I would agree about the theoretical world. However, our current society tallies people up by race and uses the results to make sure everyone’s being treated fairly. In a society that evaluates fairness that way, it’s practically important to know whether race and IQ, etc, are correlated.

    • Embarrassed Rhode Island Resid says:

      How do you know Professor Miller has never been the victim of racial profiling? I am a white Caucasian female and I have been the victim of racial profiling twice and not sure what kind of profiling a third time (it was Ex-US, Ex-Europe so I am guessing American Female profiling – they kept me for an hour longer than they kept the Palestinian guy in line ahead of me and it was a very, very long day).

      The first two times were because I happen to look Irish (well I am part Scottish Highlander) . The first time was in Boston (which happens to have an Irish Ghetto) at a department store when I was a teenager. The second time happened in the UK where they were on edge about the IRA.

      Pulled out, questioned, made to feel wrong just for being there, for no reason than they did not like how you looked (you fit a profile). The third time I am just guessing jerks with a badge but you never know.

      So lets get back to the topic at hand – here you are judging and hating on people for your assumptions on what their life experiences are and how you assume they look at the world. However, if you never talk to them or listen to them you will never know and if you treat them with blatant disrespect they will never listen to you either.

      I have been racially profiled and I am in agreement that the students while maybe not cowards were wrong in denying anyone the right to speak just as I would say anyone would be wrong in denying the students the right to speak in a civil manner. I also think the students are very wrong in celebrating what they consider a victory. A true victory would have been an open debate on the topic where all sides were heard and maybe some progress could have been made.

      I posted this quote earlier but it is still true:

      “Freedom of speech is always under attack by Fascist mentality, which exists in all parts of the world, unfortunately.” Lawrence Ferlinghetti
      When I see the students who did this I see Fascists and not learning how to debate, negotiate, and respect others rights is a poor way to become ready for the real world and to be able to make impactful real changes.

  22. One thing that I’ve yet to see elaborated upon is the notion of privilege. All Brown students, regardless of race or ethnicity, are privileged. Brown students have opportunities that the legitimate victims of discriminatory policies in the U.S. and around the world will never have. The outcry over Ray Kelly’s campus visit has degenerated into such a pity party, with Brown students arguing over who feels more oppressed, disempowered, dehumanized, etc. There is real suffering this world and it does not occur on the Brown campus. Those who object to Ray Kelly’s existence have made this incident entirely about themselves, and not the people whose real life circumstances preclude them from continually generating novel ways to describe their suffering. I can’t think of many places where somebody can make statements like “I feared for my body” or “I am in the presence of a terrorist” while attending a lecture at an Ivy League university and be applauded. In most other places, he/she would be considered emotionally and cognitively unfit to engage in any purposeful dialogue. A terrorist is somebody who straps a suicide vest to a mentally retarded child and drops her off in a mosque before triggering the detonating mechanism. Such acts of terrorism actually occur in real life. No Brown student has anything in common with that child. While people are not held accountable for careless word selection at Brown, words matter at the policy level and in an other arenas that can facilitate positive reform. This is why name calling, self-pity, and tantrum-throwing, while emotionally satisfying, are unproductive no matter how much attention they generate. The incident with Ray Kelly on campus has not generated discussion about police reform but about how the supposedly best and brightest can be so simplistic, reductionist, petty, disrespectful, irrational and careless.

    • I disagree with the heckling.

      However, Brown invites a man whose conduct is openly offensive to minority communities such as Hispanics/Blacks and Muslims. To give the spiel of how its a pity party is all wonderful. When has Brown invited a speaker who is “offensive” to more powerful groups within the Brown community. Could u state one ? Most such invitations are done by student groups.

      There is plenty of hypocrisy here. And its not from the hecklers.

      • mxm123, having graduated from Brown 11 years ago, off the top of my head I cannot name a speaker whose political leanings mirror those of the people who wouldn’t allow Ray Kelly to utter more than a few words because it’s probably so routine that it isn’t newsworthy. You make a distinction between speakers invited by student groups and those invited by what I presume you mean to be the administration and faculty. If Brown’s administration is not progressive enough, what university’s is? The two most recent Brown presidents have been women, one of them black. Unless the presidents at Brown are just figureheads, the university does not seem resigned to only empowering white males. Numerous professors publicly endorsed the suppression of any conversation between Kelly and the student body. Are they the hypocrites you’re referring to? My guess is that administrators, professors, and students invite the majority of speakers to Brown. If students aren’t the hypocrites that leaves the latter two groups.

        • @51286981e0c8ebe54a319e34e4b9c37d:disqus Just because an administrator is black/woman does not mean he/she is unaware of where their paycheck comes from.

          Humor me this. How is it that in case of say Middle East conflicts, the most controversial speakers are the ones brought to campus these days by Students for Justice in Palestine and other such groups. And of course the standard response from Administrations (not just Brown) is to say “we do not support him” blah, blah.

          As i’ve stated such in my earlier post, such speakers are brought to campus by student groups. R, u going to deny this ?

          • I’m a grad student at Columbia now and they recently hosted Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He’s currently unemployed so maybe Brown can invite him to speak (seriously). I’m all for it and without getting into details, people who subscribe to Ahmadinejad’s ideology have literally tried to kill me but I think I could listen to him in person without “fearing for my body”. Would be really interesting to see the reaction on campus.

      • Universities around the country regularly host (and hire) people who attack whites as a group, hate them and state it openly, and even talk about killing them.

        When’s the last time we had a state Poet Laureate who wrote poems about raping and murdering black family? When is the last time we had a professor at a state university write a poem about stabbing black women in the heart?

        I have found 20-odd unambigously racially-motivated violent crimes against whites at the hands of black this year. I have found one equivalent white-on-black crime. What does the SPLC have to scrounge up (and not correct when it turns out to be a hoax or mistake) to make it look like the racial hatred goes the other way? Rubber bands that look like nooses and rude words scribbled on walls.

      • Richard Johnston says:

        More offensive is that those laying false claim to the higher moral ground will not concede the elimination of stop-and-frish will lead to more deaths of blacks and Hispanics. Even more offensive is an unwillingness to concede who disproportionately commits so many terrorist acts and the basis for those acts. There is no right not to be offended, even though a Congresswoman stated such a right existed. I assume the “more powerful groups within the Brown community” include the First Holy Madrassa of Multiculturalism…

    • I mean, what’s really being lost in the entire narrative is the role the greater Providence community played in cancelling the event. It wasn’t just students shouting. Tons of people from various Providence activist groups showed up and chanted and shouted, and it’s -those- people who do get racially profiled, hassled, harassed at the hands of the Providence police. Are they just attention whores? If you’re complaining about students making the event all about themselves, I think you might need to realize that the comment you just made may just be part of the problem.

      • ac, the specific quotes I cited actually came from the internal forum organized by President Paxson the day after Kelly’s campus visit. I should have made that more clear. Thanks for pointing out the role the Providence community played at the rally- this was definitely underreported. Nobody would dispute that legitimate victims of racial profiling in Providence should have a voice but to what degree is Brown responsible for providing the platform, especially when Ray Kelly works for a different city? I’m not asking this question rhetorically as I don’t know the answer myself. I do think it is safe to say that many people, minorities included, assume an enormous financial burden to attend a university like Brown, because, among other things, it grants them access to relevant public figures like Ray Kelly. To what extent do their wishes matter relative to the students who prefer to suppress dialogue of any kind? One student was called a “white supremacist” for saying she wished the lecture had taken place. Do you think this is fair? Are the minority students who wanted to respectfully debate Kelly “Uncle Toms”? That’s the implication here. My best friend from my undergraduate years at Brown is a black federal law enforcement agent and former Marine Corps officer. Is he just a pawn for the oppressive machine perpetuated by rich white males? I’d love to hear some self-righteous, know-it-all 18 year old tell my friend what a tool he is just to watch the intellectual smackdown that would subside. I definitely don’t have all the answers but at least I’m open to addressing the questions. The balance between security and civil liberties (the real issue here) will never cease to be controversial because nuance is axiomatic outside of fanatical circles. Police officers do not wake up in the morning licking their lips in anticipation of violating people’s civil liberties nor are civil libertarians opposed to public safety. There will never be a perfect solution to this issue which is why an ongoing conversation must continue. The dogmatism and certainly exuded by people making the “white supremacists” comments is more dangerous than a gun and set of handcuffs.

        • But again, look, you’re falling into the trap of making it all about the students. The event was open to the public. The public (Providence residents in general) responded. I think there’s been undue focus on the impact and words of students. Even after I’ve pointed this out to you, you still continue to focus on the rhetoric coming out of students. Yeah, it’s heated. I get it. But given your laser focus on the words of Jenny Li et al, I’m starting to wonder if you actually legitimately care about this entire debacle beyond having something to dunk on “naive college liberals” (or whatever) with. Like, you want some college student to confront your friend just to watch some intellectual smackdown? How on earth did we get to there from Ray Kelly and the community’s reactions to his talk and his policies?

          • Once again, I don’t dispute that Providence residents should be heard- just not sure to what extent Brown University is responsible for providing the platform. The students remain the big story here. They organized the protest and by blocking the dialogue with name calling, screaming, and declarations of “fearing for their lives” while sitting in a lecture hall, created a hostile environment for learning. The moderates (not just conservatives) are the fearful ones these days. If Brown wants to be in the business of disrupting difficult conversations- not eduction, fine, but it should cease to refer to itself as a university. I’m sure people like Jenny Li are well-intentioned and I admire their passion, however misguided. Most college students are completely apathetic about relevant social issues. However, Brown is supposed to be an elite university that cultivates future leaders. Leaders are held accountable for their words and their actions. Cult members, not leaders, behave like Jenny Li did two days ago.

          • Even if Ray Kelly had been allowed to speak, it wouldn’t have been a conversation (much less a difficult one). If I get on a podium and lecture to you, and you’re allowed to ask me a small set of questions for which I surely have canned answers, we haven’t had a conversation and it’s pretty absurd to suggest we did. What we’re having -now- is a conversation. What other students are having all over campus are difficult (and, admittedly, not particularly civil) conversations. And again, I wholeheartedly disagree with the notion that the students remain the big story. They’re the big story to -you- because you’re a former Brown student looking to make some commentary about current Brown students. Are we to presume community members don’t have enough agency to form their own response (which is the implication of saying it was the students who organized and not the community)? Are we to presume their response doesn’t matter because the narrative about students is so much juicier? It’s totally irrelevant as whether or not Brown is responsible for providing the platform for the Providence community to be heard. So long as Brown has lectures open to the public, the public has a say.

          • The issue arises when opening a lecture to the public interferes with the education of the students. As a Columbia grad student and NY Giants fan, if the university hosted a speaker violently opposed to the existence of all NY Giants fans, I’d be pissed if I was denied the opportunity to debate why the NY Giants are a preeminent organization because a bunch of Giants fans from the community took matters into their own hands. I wouldn’t blame the Giants fans from the community for this, however. I’d blame the administration for promising something to its students and under-delivering. Let’s face it, the university lost total control of the situation. Columbia hosted Ahmadinejad without incident. Brown comes away looking like such an incompetent and unprofessional organization (unlike the NY Giants). As for this idea that inviting people like Ray Kelly to speak provides more of a soapbox than a vehicle for discussion- you can’t expect an invited speaker not to read prepared remarks. Minimizing the potential for the soapbox can easily be remedied by proper planning and formatting. We can agree to disagree. I just hope that Brown students are having a similar conversation over a cup of coffee and not screaming at each other and name calling.

          • My only quibble with your overall comment is to draw a distinction between a ‘conversation with Ray Kelly’ which was always going to be limited; versus a ‘conversation about the police practices of Ray Kelly’, which was aborted due to the antics, and acquiescence of people opposed to the free and open exchange of ideas.

  23. another Brown professor says:

    I think Prof. Miller’s point is that Brown should be a place of absolute academic freedom where even people like Rockwell, and by extension Hitler, should be allowed to make their argument. The opposing view is easy to understand as well: why would my very existence be a subject of discussion (Rockwell said 90% of American Jews are traitors and should be killed)? I think it is indeed a matter of perspective: to some, Rockwell is one of “us” with a crazy view. Thus whether the Jews should exterminated or the blacks be deported back to Africa is a matter of “civil debate”; but to people who will be victims, there is no discussion. The real question is whether Brown University should have absolute academic freedom.

    • '`*-.,_,-*'`*~-.,.~*'*-.,_,-*' says:

      i really like this response, but could you elaborate: absolute academic freedom at the expense of what? people’s feelings not getting hurt, or are there more serious political implications of engaging w/ this type of opinion? i.e., do you believe that to treat “[our] very existence [as] a subject of discussion” (or in this case, to entertain [at least de facto] racist policy) is to propagate these disgusting, harmful views and lead to disgusting, harmful treatment of groups? i’d like to hear your thoughts on the latter; i have no idea what to believe, myself.

  24. Thank you for this fascinating piece of Brown history, Professor Miller.

  25. '`*-.,_,-*'`*~-.,.~*'*-.,_,-*' says:

    i don’t want to come across as holier-than-thou, but i’m shocked and disappointed by some commenters’ complete lack of civility toward professor miller (one even called him “scum”). you can say something like, “oh but racists/fascists don’t deserve my respect!!”, to which i’d reply:

    (1) at the absolute worst (and this isn’t an opinion i hold, but it’s not entirely unreasonable), he’s implicitly supporting racist/fascist views by considering them worthy of engagement; and
    (2) if you believe that somebody who implicitly supports racist/fascist views (but is clearly well-meaning and neither a racist nor a fascist) deserves to be treated with disrespect, i’m genuinely sorry for the bitterness in your heart, which i assume (no sarcasm here) has been ingrained by what you’ve faced in your lifetime at the hands of hateful views.

    …and to be clear, my horror has nothing to do with professor miller’s status in the brown community. i’m only considering his status as a human being.

  26. The bottom line for me, a segment of the student body made it their business to prevent OTHER students from engaging Ray Kelly’s views on policing. How do you “rationalize” your right to do that?

  27. What’s up with all of the comments along the lines of “you’re white, privileged and cisgendered so you’ve never encountered hardship so you don’t understand.” ? That seems narrow-minded and unfounded – we don’t know what kinds of challenges or discrimination Prof. Miller may have faced in his life. These comments are just making some blanket assumption because of his skin and sexual orientation. Isn’t that contrary to the notion of treating everyone equally? Meanwhile you’re arguing that Ray Kelley’s policies are wrong because they don’t treat everyone equally! I find these arguments hypocritical.

    • Joseph Miller says:

      In the words of Animal Farm “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”. The totalitarian impulse to absolutely control public speech can be rationalized even by self-proclaimed champions of equality.

    • What’s up with all those comments?
      That’s what they have and are currently being taught to think!
      There are clubs, facilities, electives and entire degrees based on this point of view. Open disdain is expressed towards white men on a daily basis by numerous faculty members at Brown and many other colleges across America. Especially white, Christian men. Now this thinking is even making itself known in the armed forces. From the top down. The very top.

  28. I want to thank everyone who posted comments on my BDH
    column, especially the most critical ones. I’ve learned quite a bit by reading
    them. Some reactions:

    • Ian Trupin, Zander Berg, Alum ’13, Brown ’15, Rachel
    Bishop and others seem to think that the Rockwell talk and my attendance at it
    were acts of disrespect that trivialized the sufferings of Holocaust survivors
    and endorsed the racism and anti-Semitism of the Nazi party. Really? Did you
    bother to read my column? Rockwell’s superficial charm concealed what I rightly
    called a “sinister smile.” Far from showing, as “STFU Miller” wrote, that I
    “can’t empathize with the Jewish people who were slaughtered by the millions,” the
    Rockwell talk brought the reality of the Holocaust home by placing it in an
    American context. The best antidote to the poison that George Lincoln Rockwell
    spewed that day was sunlight, it was to allow him to be heard, understood, and
    as a result, rejected and despised.

    • Zander Berg ’13 asked how a roomful of students could
    “laugh” at the jokes of someone who “wanted to murder their Jewish fellow
    students.” Had he been there, he would have realized that much of that
    laughter, including mine, was directed at the absurdity of the claims made by
    Rockwell. His comments imply that Rockwell was warmly received by the “ruling racial caste.” That’s not even close to reality. The discussion afterwards revealed nothing but contempt for the man and his views.

    • Ian Trupin and others said I was “proud of what happened”
    back in 1966. Really? I never used the word “proud” in my essay, except to say
    that Rockwell was proud of being a racist. What I said was that I was “glad
    Brown was an open campus” that allowed even the most controversial speakers,
    including Communists, a platform. Curiously, no one criticized my approval of the
    fact that Brown also hosted Communist speakers, despite the fact that the
    greatest mass killings of the 20th Century took place under
    Communist supervision (Stalin’s purges, the Cultural Revolution in China, the
    Cambodian genocide).

    • I was genuinely surprised by how quickly the comments
    jumped to the issue of my race, gender, and sexual orientation. “BrownStudent” said that as a “privileged
    white male” I will “never understand or encounter racism.” Maybe so. But what
    does that have to do with silencing an invited speaker? Does the fact that
    someone like “BrownStudent” has encountered racism automatically mean that she
    or he now has the power to determine what other students are allowed to hear?
    “Devastated” echoed that sentiment, calling me a “white cisgender male,” part
    of a “complicit system.” Once again, maybe so. But by what logic does
    “BrownStudent” then gain power over other students to control which speakers
    they are allowed to hear, and which will be suppressed?

    • I do owe “BrownStudent” a special thank-you for elevating
    the level of discourse in response to my column by writing, as his parting
    shot, “You are scum.” I think that speaks for itself, and is a fine reflection of the level of discourse to which BrownStudent’s post rises.

    • A number of comments referred to “protestors” and made it
    clear they would stand with them and their right to protest Ray Kelly. Well,
    guess what? I would too. When they protested and picketed outside the talk and
    when posters insulting Kelly were placed all over campus I was fully in support of their actions. Protest is part of the political scene on any campus, especially Brown’s. But
    shutting down a gathering by shouting down a speaker is no longer protest. It
    is mob intimidation.

    • Lastly, the single most surprising thing about the
    critical comments was the implication in nearly every one of them that I did
    not or could not (as a white guy) understand the horrors of stop-and-frisk, the
    policing policy that Kelly has overseen in New York City. Merely by allowing
    him to speak, as the argument goes, Brown was marginalizing minority students
    and instilling a climate of fear and intimidation on campus. Here’s the
    reality, friends: I don’t like Kelly, and I am totally against stop-and-frisk.
    It’s a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment, it’s a socially divisive
    policy, and it poisons relations between the police and the minority community
    by making every member of a minority group feel as though he or she is viewed
    as a potential criminal.

    At the end of the talk, I would have loved to have seen a
    series of pointed questions that made Kelly answer those accusations, and I
    don’t doubt for a second that our students could have put him through the
    wringer. That, my friends, might have had an effect on stop-and-frisk.

    Instead, a determined group of people decided that they
    would silence Kelly, lending credence to the narrative that Brown is a closed
    campus, intolerant to anyone who does not toe a certain political line. You
    made Kelly a hero to his constituency, when you could have made him into a

    Ken Miller

    • I feel that your hope that students could have “put [Kelly] through the wringer” and that his questioning “might have had an effect on stop-and-frisk” is kind of… just simply naive. I feel like you may have felt the questions of students back in the 60s “defeated” the ideology of Rockwell in the forum of reasoned debate… but in that case there was nothing to defeat. American Nazism is a fringe ideology with zero effect on policy in the United States.

      I find it hard to see what sort of “tough questions” could be asked of Kelly that have not already been asked of the policy in the course of the lawsuit against New York City (a lawsuit, which, I might add, has yet to have any effect on the actual practice of stop-and-frisk). It’s even harder to see how such “tough questions” (for which Kelly surely has well-rehearsed, well-prepared answers) could succeed in causing the policy to budge even an inch.

      Those on your side of this issue constantly make arguments to the effect of “civil debate and discourse are the most effective way to change these issues”. But nobody ever describes the mechanisms through which a “tough question” (followed by Kelly’s canned response) could possibly make -any- change! If you want to argue that civil discourse is an end in itself, go right ahead. But if you want to argue that it’s actually more effective, I’d like to see some actual substance, because I don’t buy that as an a priori fact. It seems more like a sort of fantasy.

      • Fool.

      • before stop and frisk 2300 murders in 1 year in New York city ….after stop and frisk less than 400 …that policy may well have saved 40,000 mostly minority lives

      • Your argument boils down to the notion that Brown students needed to be protected from wrong ideas because Brown students simply aren’t up to the intellectual challenge.

        Assuming you really are a Brown student maybe you are on to something!

      • I’d like to hear Prof. Miller’s response to this criticism. I can easily see how a confrontation would be enriching to students, and that’s nice given that Brown is an educational institution. But how would it help the fight against what you, Prof. Miller, say is a harmful practice which needs to change? Why is the open discourse so sacrosanct in that respect?

        Does it help people in NYC? Or just Brown students? Your argument seems to conflate both outcomes, but only one is evident.

        (Although, ac, your claim that American fascism is an irrelevant fringe movement is in turn naive to Prof. Miller’s apt denouncement of “it couldn’t happen here” mentality…)

    • Nathanwartooth says:

      In the end it doesn’t really matter. Anyone who doesn’t preach egalitarianism will be shouted down. Not even you have the balls to stand up against egalitarianism. It doesn’t matter how much clout or tenure that you have. You would be fired. Students would attack you and protest your classes until you were forced to leave.

      Such is the power of totalitarianism by mob. Who needs government censorship when people and corporations will do it for you?

      Oh and Micheal Bloomberg got his way. His legacy will stand. Bloomberg knows who commits the crime, the Blacks and Hispanics and isn’t afraid to use corrupt police power to stop it. A guy who is worth 30 billion dollars can get his way. Even if he is racist.

    • Thank you for your column and for going against the tide.

    • Dr. Miller, I don’t doubt the purity of your thoughts & intentions, or quality of your Rockwell moment, and most of all I really appreciate the fact that you told this story, which wouldn’t be so controversial if it weren’t so important.

      My point was simply that as important as Rockwell moments may be, they are not the most important thing. I think that Rockwell’s audience needed to show its humanity not only through tolerance, but also through empathy for the people picketing outside. And even empathy is the wrong word, since I think it implies that a safe outsider can actually share the victim’s pain. Respect is a better term, as it recognizes that the safe outsider can’t speak for the victim or deal with the perpetrator on the victim’s behalf.

      I absolutely believe you when you write that the “sunlight” of being heard was an “antidote” to Rockwell’s own poison. But in addition to antidotes sometimes we also need tourniquets. And we need to recognize that dialogue without justice can hurt as easily as heal.

      • It’s academia, not a support group.

        You are proving Allan Bloom correct every time you engage in this form of sophistry.

        • Henry Mitchell says:

          Exactly right. The reaction here is all passion, but mis-directed; it becomes just an immature outburst. Even college students should be expected to show some modicum of reason and debate. I fear this is the natural outgrowth of “progressive” trends generally, and the leftward tilt of academia. You reap what you sow, after 12+ years of schooling in the progressive incubator. There is a dumbing down emotionally as well as intellectually in the current climate.

      • Juan Williams Blasts Censorship, Argues Students and Citizens Need Open Avenues to Exchange Ideas

        “Particularly worrisome for Williams is the state of free speech on college campuses.

        “You have the educated class—especially at our colleges and universities—who for some reason take it to themselves that they are going to be protective of these young people, to the point of shielding them from ideas and actions that are potentially offensive,” says Williams.

        A scholar of the civil rights movement, Williams also talks extensively in the interview about the role of free expression in ending segregation and securing equal rights for women and minorities.”

        • I listened to this and thought it was quite interesting. But I think that Juan Williams is distant enough from the experience of being in college that he makes some wrong assumptions. This may be true of many, but the people I know in the university who I think of as embodying what activism is about are not who they are because they were shielded all their lives. My friends become passionate because of their experiences, which extend far beyond the boundaries of the university, as my Romania story might tell you. We are not ignorant of the views of people like Rockwell or people like Kelly, and encounter them on a regular basis. For some of us, the problem is just how close and personal these encounters can be. But it’s one thing for these encounters to be purely intellectual and removed (which is great) and another thing for them to be personal and violent.

    • perfect take down, well done.

    • queenofzeegeeks says:

      Ray Kelly was not an invited speaker to lecture, he was an honorary speaker to be commended for his accomplishments in his tenure as commissioner of the NYPD. The protesters did not feel that a man enforcing policies driven by racial prejudice was deserving of a commendation from an Ivy League university.

      • Dr. Ed Cutting says:

        Wouldn’t you rather have everyone see him unable to respond to the pointed question you could have asked him about his practices? Imagine what that UTube video would have done — and how quickly it would have spread….

        • queenofzeegeeks says:

          He’s heard all the questions before, and they’re always widely publicized, but it doesn’t change anything. He still has all the power when it comes to the NYPD and enforcing horrific policies that harm people without a voice to protest. I don’t think the protesters condoned further silencing of weaker voices.

          • Dr. Ed Cutting says:

            Didn’t I recently hear something about some judge saying something?
            Doesn’t that constitute “changing anything”?

    • Dr. Ed Cutting says:

      I was not happy that the UMass Library had invited Ray Luc Levasseur to speak on campus, it probably the only time I will ever agree with Governor Deval Patrick.

      But I went to that event because I wanted to see who those &^%$ were. I listened to them objectively, thought about it for a minute, and realized that everything I had ever been told about them was true. It also was a warning siren about the politicization of the library itself — a warning that, in hindsight, I wish that I’d heeded.

      But I saw the Levasseur Fan Club as the terrorists (and pathetic loosers) they are.

  29. “I thank Professor of Biology Ken Miller ’70 P’02 for sharing how he was able to withstand the pleas of Holocaust survivors and walk past them to gain a lesson on the attractions of fascism from an American Nazi. I don’t think I could have done so. On the other hand, as a historian, I wouldn’t have needed that lesson.”
    – Naoko Shibusawa, associate professor of history

    • hmmmm do you teach about the NAZI’s …would you pass on the chance to have say hitler speak …Goring …Gobbels …etc

    • You seem to imply that you are simply better and smarter. Not very flattering.

      One would surmise that an historian would value accuracy in the presentation of facts. I believe you have misrepresented the context of what was said.

      Perhaps it might be better to focus on the students that come out of college, even at places like Brown, woefully ignorant of American and world history, unless from a critical perspective.

    • Joseph Miller says:

      I’m sure your weak stomach is a great service to academic inquiry. Certainly there’s nothing to gain from dispassionate observation. I hope all your work is thoroughly vetted for offensiveness.

    • As surely as you would avoid any speech from a supporter or proponent of communism.

      No doubt.

    • CharlieFromMass says:

      I’ll give you some credit for at least having the integrity enough to admit cowardice.

      And any respect I might have had otherwise for you was immediately counter-balanced with your arrogance at the end of your post.

      Speaking as an Armenian-American, I understand all too well the suffering of the several groups of people at the hand of Hitler, but that would make me want to hear what their supporters have to say- WHY are they doing it. WHAT- perceived, or real, did we do to them as a group to merit such hatred?

      Thought control, regardless of who attempts to engage in it, has been to one degree or another, at the root of nearly every conflict in recorded history. It manifests itself in allegiances to kings and other governments, religion, philosophies, and countless other ways.

      The howling sycophants that shot down Commissioner Kelly’s speech are perfect examples of the intellectual and cultural war we now have in America, and throughout the western world. A group of over-educated, mentally-enfeebled (I could be really mean and use the “r” word), rudderless (as in no sense of morals, right, wrong, ethics or propriety) fools trying to push 100 Milena of civilization over the cliff.

      If Brown had any sense of ethics or right or wrong, every one of those students would be expelled for such un-scholarly, and frankly, un-cvilized behavior.

      But, we are talking about Brown.

  30. stereorealist says:

    This is a very positive piece. It states very clearly why free speech is not inoffensive speech. Free speech is the opportunity to understand.

  31. Nathanwartooth says:

    The new leftist tactics of scream at your opponent until they go away is working wonderfully.

    These people don’t want free speech. They don’t want a debate. They don’t want to exchange viewpoints.

    They just want to scream until you go away. It’s truly sickening.

  32. Nathanwartooth says:

    “Blame them on the “others” — the blacks, the Jews, the Commies who are spoiling our otherwise virtuous society”

    This is a logical fallacy. Saying that you can’t blame problems on a group just because they happen to be non White or a hard left ideology is ridiculous.

    I call it the “Non White God” fallacy. Where every action by a non White is assumed to be Godlike and therefore infallible.

    Example: A Black teenager doesn’t study, gets bad grades, punches a teacher in the face and gets suspended. Then he deals drugs and shoots someone. The explanation? “Legacy of slavery” “school to prison pipeline” “white privilege”.

    This is why if a White person is poor it’s because they are a loser who can’t succeed in life. But when a Black person is poor it’s any fault but their own.

  33. does anyone know the % of murders and other violent crimes minorities commit in New York City

    • I know that blacks commit 80 percent of the homicides in NYC while comprising only 23 percent of the population. Kelley’s policies probably saved a few thousand minority lives.

  34. Embaressed Rhode Island Resid. says:

    Thank you Professor Miller!

    The students that closed down the Ray Kelly lecture seem to believe in “free speech for me (them) but not for thee (anyone who does not agree with them)” which is not free speech at all. They cannot seem to see that their hatred, intolerance, and lack of respect for others is what is standing in the way of open discussions and potentially reaching resolutions (or at least opening up minds). I for one would have liked to hear what Ray Kelly had to say as well as those who would have debated him during the discussions.

    I feel sorry for Jenny Li and her friends. She is happily celebrating her abuse of others and she and her cohorts seem to feel that the ones they abused should not only shut up and take it but also apologize for even wanting to speak in the first place. They are standing in the long shadow of some of the most evil and notorious figures in recent history. I can see future employers really appreciating their ability not to negotiate, to scream and yell to get their own way, and to ignore the feelings and thoughts of those around them. This also reflects poorly on Brown as a University if they do not take a firm stand against intolerance and for free speech.

    “It is easy to believe in freedom of speech for those with whom we agree.”
    Leo McKern

    To Paraphrase – I may I disapprove of what Ray Kelly had to say (and would debate him on it), but I will defend to the death his right to say it.
    Free Speech and Free Thought are for everyone not just those with whom we agree!

    • Embarrassed Rhode Island Resid says:

      Sigh and that would be Embarrassed Rhode Island Resident.

      Since I had to add the correction for my sometimes interesting typing skills, I would like to add another favorite quote of mine that seems to fit the situation.

      “Freedom of speech is always under attack by Fascist mentality, which exists in all parts of the world, unfortunately.” Lawrence Ferlinghetti
      and I would add even at Brown University.

    • '`*-.,_,-*'`*~-.,.~*'*-.,_,-*' says:

      i really do not see how this comment benefits from the personal, named attack on the student organizer of the protest. i agree with the overall message of your post — free speech is for everyone — but its effectiveness is severely diminished by that extremely rude and completely unnecessary segment.

      • Uncle Fester says:

        If you’re going to protest a speaker, and protest in a manner that you know will generate at least some controversy, I think you should expect some pushback, or an “extremely rude and completely unnecessary comment” or two. And if you think ERIR’s “attack” was out of line, you need to get out more.

      • i really do not see how this comment benefits from the personal, named attack on the student organizer of the protest.

        1. It wasn’t a personal attack.

        2. Jenny Li organized and participated in an outrageous public act. She can hardly expect to remain anonymous and insulated from public criticism.

      • There are more than a few who believe that Jenny Li’s action was rude and unnecessary.

      • Embarrassed Rhode Island Resid says:

        Actually it was intentional and hopefully I can explain my reasoning satisfactorily. The student organizer (the only one I named) has never been anonymous. She has given interviews and been at the front line of this entire disgraceful event. She appears to be extremely proud of what she has done.
        Evidently she sees this denial of free speech and shut down of potential dialog as something to be proud of and to celebrate…. It was a victory. Many extremists seem to live in a bubble surrounded only by those with similar group think riding a wave of self congratulation and self satisfaction.
        I doubt if it ever even dawned on her and the others with her that their self considered righteous actions may be considered despicable by others. That even people who would have supported a peaceful demonstration and stood by their side in a debate and dialog session regarding profiling would be utterly repulsed by their lack of consideration for those around them, their intolerance, and their blatant disrespect for the rights of others. It is just that those who disagree are also not normally those who will respond in kind (i.e. by screaming, being disrespectful, shouting down, taunting, name calling, and etc). Thus they do not see or understand the revulsion for their actions.
        They also do not seem to see the down stream potential consequences of their actions in an age where their names and these actions are potentially being viewed all over the world for years to come not only by those within their circle but by potentially “everyone”. They will be potentially googled and judged for these actions for a very long time. So where they could have been a force for change and growth they were pretty much the exact opposite by their actions.
        The paragraph that you found rude is the unvarnished truth (at least as I see it). No, it is not pretty or dressed up. The behavior that was demonstrated by the student organizer and others at the event has been seen before in recent history (20th/21st century) and not by those I would hope most would respect or want to emulate (dark names and dark times to never forget or hopefully see repeated).
        So I put that paragraph out there as a wake up call or at least a call to think to those who may be involved in group think within some self congratulatory bubble where they may view the event that took place as some sort of win but not realize how you do something matters and may be viewed differently by others and in this day and age may be a first impression you make with people you have not yet truly met.

        • '`*-.,_,-*'`*~-.,.~*'*-.,_,-*' says:

          wowwww. i suspected you did it intentionally as some kind of self-righteously creepy attempt to publicly shame her, but i didn’t think you’d admit it!! lol, who’s proud of their despicable, disrespectful actions now? 😉

          • Embarrassed Rhode Island Resid says:

            No, I did not do it to publically shame her as she seems to see it as a badge of honor and has put it out there herself for all to see. She has done that by her own actions. How can you publically shame someone by mentioning something that they have done when they are promoting it themselves in the public sphere. Frankly, as I stated above I feel sorry for her.
            It was simply a statement of fact. Note I did not make any direct comparisons to anyone else. As to proud.. no that was not even a consideration nor self righteous. Just someone who is very tired of seeing hubris combined with the violation of the basic rights of others including freedom of speech. I am not claiming perfection or the absolute rightness of my values just that I am open to hearing the opinions of others and considering them. I am also willing to re-evaluate my opinions based on facts and dialog.
            “Despicable and disrespectful”, you are entitled to your opinion though I happen to disagree. Creepy? I don’t agree with that either but that is also my opinion. I am in full agreement with your previous statement that freedom of speech is for everyone.
            The difference in this discussion versus the actions the other night is that I am willing to read what you wrote (without trying to get it removed, censured, call you names, or etc) and consider it. I doubt you would get that same type of response from the individuals that were willing to violate someone’s freedom of speech. I frankly doubt you would get the same kind of consideration from the person in question that we are discussing based on their actions but I could be wrong.

          • Embarrassed Rhode Island Resid says:

            My apologizes for the long block … the spaces I inserted to break up the content vanished when it posted.

  35. NM

  36. Today’s lesson…

    No wonder your school is called “Brown”, you are turning out “crap”!

  37. Prof Miller is about to be downsized.

  38. “The crowd who managed to silence a speaker yesterday…”

    The crowd did not do this alone, the crowd did this with the acquiescence of University authorities. Those same authorities had every legal right, and a moral obligation, to have those disrupting the event removed.

    That they did not says they are no friends of free speech, nor free academic inquiry.

  39. blue quasar says:

    The best article lately on why we need freedom of speech. Simply outstanding.

    As far as the critics are concerned, ignore them. Thanks to free speech they will have the opportunity to learn the error of their ways.

    Every student in America should be allowed to listen to people like Rockwell at least once in their lives so they can learn to recognize the seductive nature of evil people.

    Only in so doing will we be able to recognize these people in the future.

  40. The Masked Avatar says:

    Why is it I only see liberals behaving like this?

  41. disqus_aO4KJtxZtF says:

    It would be nice to be able to speak freely in the classroom, too: WEISSBERG: Standing Up to the PC Bullies l January 27, 2011

    KISSEL: Roosevelt University Professor Fired after Telling Joke in Class l January 18, 2011

  42. Richard Johnston says:

    I teach a course to college seniors on the topic of liberty. I plan on using this essay in that course next semester. I am skeptical that many of those opposing stop and frisk will have the integrity to acknowledge the policing tactic saves lives. Ignoring trade-offs doesn’t make them go away. Veritaphobia is rampant on college campuses.

    • '`*-.,_,-*'`*~-.,.~*'*~ (2014) says:

      hahahaha i just imagine u assigning american renaissance articles for reading, frothing at the mouth at the anticipation of all the students being like, “OH I SEE THE LIGHT NOW, WHITE PEOPLE ARE INHERENTLY SUPERIOR, I’VE BEEN DECEIVED MY WHOLE LIFE BY LIBERAL PROPAGANDA” and being shocked when people are like, “uhhh professor johnston? i am pretty sure that the people who write this sort of thing are racist/and or schizophrenic.”

  43. Richard Johnston says:

    I wonder if Brown’s admissions criteria adversely impact African-Americans. What’s the probability the students will protest those?

  44. Wonderful commentary, although it would have been a bit more diplomatic if Prof. Miller did not impose his own previously created negative opinion on Ray Kelly.
    “Ray Kelly, whatever his misdeeds, is no George Lincoln Rockwell.”
    “And it deprived every member of our community of the chance to hear
    Kelly and decide for themselves whether his policing methods are indeed
    the first steps of a Rockwell-like campaign against minorities and the
    poor in America’s greatest city.”

  45. Dr. Ed Cutting says:

    The other thing people fail to understand when they shout down a speaker is that instead of being (a) able to hear what the schmuck actually would say if freely able to speak, (b) realizing how reprehensible it is, and hence (c) dismissing the speaker and his/her/its argument as also reprehensible (i.e. agreeing with those protesting the speaker) — instead of that, all the neutral person knows is that he/she/it wasn’t able to say what he/she/it wanted to say — and are told that it is something with which they would agree with had they been able to hear it.

    The same thing — in a completely different context — was with the “PaulBots” — the very enthusiastic supporters of Ron Paul, who claimed that if you only got to see him, you’d want him to be President. Well, I got to see him at CPAC and I saw a very old man who wouldn’t last a week as POTUS, and that was that. Milton’s line about truth being stronger than falsehood and prevailing in an even & open encounter comes to mind as well.

    Now take the even worse case of a not-quite-neutral person who has issues with those who are protesting the speaker and who disrupt the event. “Your enemy’s enemy is your friend” — it’s very easy to fall into the trap of presuming that the reason why people with whom you disagree are protesting someone is because he would have said something that you agree with — and his supporters are going to say that, neglecting to mention the nasty stuff.

    For example, there are a lot of people opposed to abortion — the majority of the country according to most polls. HOWEVER, the vast VAST majority of those who oppose abortion also oppose blowing up abortion clinics, murdering those who work in such venues, and other such reprehensible acts of criminal violence. What the feminists fail to understand is that as the pro-life audience will inherently have a quite visceral reaction to someone advocating such stuff, they neither need to protest such folk nor would really be noticed doing so in the much louder protests from the pro-life folks. It’s kinda like what would happen if some feminist were to tell a NOW convention that domestic violence was a good thing and that men should punch women more often — I’d protest that but the victims of domestic violence would be there so much quicker that I’d never get anywhere near the building.

    • Dr. Ed Cutting says:

      This essentially is how Hitler managed to win an essentially fair election, which we need to remember is how he came to power. Hitler blamed the Communists – for essentially everything.

      The German people didn’t like the Communists, they didn’t know who Hitler’s National Socialists (Nazis) really were, and they did want the street fighting to end. Hitler did keep that promise — killing his own “Brownshirts” (SA) in the “night of long knives” and killing the Communists as well — he gave the German people what they wanted without quite telling them how he was going to do it — which, had they have known it, would have given them some pause. They fell into the trap of “your enemy’s enemy is your friend.”

      If you look at the election results and the demographics of those who voted in that election, one has to presume that a significant number of German Jews voted for Hitler. They had to have done so for him to have gotten as many votes as he did. And had they known what the Nazis would procede to do over the next decade — not just to Jews in general but to them personally and to their families — I really doubt that they would have voted for him. Had some of the Rabbis invited Hitler’s schmucks to address their congregations, and had the congregations politely listened to the intemperate rants about thngs like “racial purification” and the rest, they’d been forewarned as to what the Nazis intended to do and things might have turned out a little differently.

      Likewise, during WW-1, when trans-Atlantic communication was only via a cable which left Europe in Ireland and hence was under British control, the British had engaged in extensive propaganda. Americans had heard reports of German soldiers brutally pitchforking babies and all kinds of such stuff — which they later learned to not have been true. Germans argued (I believe correctly) that America hadn’t really been told the real story of what had happened to the _Louisitania_ — modern divers have found that the hull was blown *outward* from an internal explosion, and there was a quite suspicious shipment of “cheese” & “butter” which had been loaded in that area. It is quite likely that what sunk her was not the German torpedo (which were not as powerful as WW-II torpedoes) but the explosives which the torpedo set off.

      I’m no fan of FDR, who was quite anti-Semitic, and I’m not defending the quite reprehensible decisions to ignore the then-ongoing Holocaust, let alone to deny refuge to those attempting to flee it — but I can understand how some people might not have believed it was happening. After all, they’d been lied to about what the Germans were doing during the last war, only 20 years ago, and presumed that they were being lied to again. And thus, as reprehensible as what they said was, the world would have been far better off had everyone known who the Nazis were and what they advocated.

      I want to *know* who intends to kill me — and I want everyone else to know it too as I well may need their help in stopping this from happening. I don’t care how reprehensible what someone has to say is — just give me a free chance to point that out and as truth truly *IS* stronger than falsehood, truth will prevail.

  46. By this logic, would you consider those Holocaust survivors cowards if they had shouted down that Nazi speaker?

    I’m not sure letting a man like Ray Kelly be feted for his “innovative policing” constitutes a “dialogue.” Kelly certainly isn’t interested in a ‘dialogue’ with the New Yorkers that would like stop-and-frisk eliminated, or at the very least have some citizen oversight.

    People are mentioning privilege because since you are not likely to be stopped-and-frisked, you have the luxury of framing this academic ideal of a ‘dialogue’ as the most important, precious thing to be nurtured. For some people (including many Brown students), the fracturing of their communities and the systematic denial of minorities’ civil rights is more important. You might not agree, but that does NOT make them cowards.

    Roxanne Palmer ’08

  47. Thank you, Dr Miller, for your reasoned and incisive column; for caring enough about liberal values and about Brown to write it; and for giving those who would silence speech – at a university! Especially this one! – the fire-hose blast of cold water that they deserve.

  48. Mark Workhoven says:

    I agree the audience was rude to Kelly and should have let him speak. It’s important to allow an open debate on the issues of the day.
    That said, I think it’s mighty odd that Ken Miller made this argument by talking about an actual Nazi speaking at Brown. To me, that doesn’t support his argument that all speakers should be allowed to speak, it has nothing to do with anything.

    Miller is the current Police Commissioner of New York who wanted to talk about a current legal issue being debated. Nazism, on the other hand, was already debated 70 years ago and was so completely rejected that only a tiny, politically irrelevant fringe group of lunatics still believe in it. It’s not a current issue, there is no moral or rational defense for it, and to invite a Nazi to speak showed extremely poor judgement on the part of Brown. They may as well have invited someone to give a speech about how the Earth is flat. That issue is settled.

    Kelly can debate with people with a shared respect for freedom of speech. Rockwell couldn’t, he thought everyone who disagreed should be deported or worse. You can’t have a legitimate debate with someone like that.

    It’s tempting to say that yelling “Boo!” is also freedom of speech. But since people like Rockwell thrive on negative attention, it would have been better if people had simply boycotted the event and allowed Rockwell to try and give a speech to an empty room.
    I also disagree with Miller that fascism can happen here. No, it can’t. Americans in general have a much healthier respect for freedom than Germans did in the 1930’s. A tiny number of nuts in the lunatic fringe won’t change that.

  49. okezie nwoka '10/'12.5 says:

    prof. miller,

    as a former student of yours, i admire your courage in writing this op ed. however, i am terribly disappointed at your willingness to be more empathetic towards racist americans than to anti-racist ones. you have once again validated, how most of the world imagines white people, particularly white men: monsters. the world calls you monsters. monsters in the baldwinian sense. monsters not to be feared, but to be pitied because of your blind cruelty and naive wickedness.

    i do not want to believe you are a monster prof. miller. it is my prayer this evening that you engage in the exercise of humility and deny those of arrogance… so that you too can truly begin to understand why the protesters acted the way they did. while it is true that i do not agree with their tactics, i understand their pain and would never try to dismiss it. for if i were to do such a thing, that would make me inhumane, and if you were to do such a thing, that would make you racist– given the realities of american history.

    do not be deceived prof. miller. rockway truly is no different from kelly– it is as simple as that. for if one does not radically imagine people as being EQUAL, in every sense of the word, then one has trapped “the other” in a dangerous bondage. that is the beginning of fascism.

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