Happy 50th birthday to the Free Speech Movement.
Those of us who were young adults at the time well remember the galvanizing effect on students everywhere of those culturally game-changing protests at the Berkeley campus of the University of California. Their leader, Mario Savio, compared the Free Speech Movement to the civil rights movement, the university administration to the “Bull Connors” of the racist south and the campus cops to “Eichmann.” That stuff was edgy then.
Even at the time, mind you, as a student at the University of Toronto, I was puzzled by the protesters’ ferocity. Who exactly at liberal Berkeley was repressing free speech? In retrospect, nobody. Ironically, today’s stringent campus speech codes are enforced by the very individuals who participated in those protests 50 years ago, and who then went on to become “tenured radicals.”