There was some real angry ugliness at Brown University Tuesday night, as NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was shouted down and his lecture shut down.

There has been celebration in some circles at Brown, but not from Biology Professor Ken Miller, a Brown grad himself.

Miller wrote a wonderful letter to the Brown Daily Herald about his experience hearing George Lincoln Rockwell, leader of the American Nazi Party, speak at Brown in the late 1960s, and how it compared to the shout down of Kelly.

Read the whole thing, this excerpt will not do it justice:

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….

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….

In a similar vein, fellow Hamilton College grad Lachlan Markay passes along this story of how Rockwell was permitted to speak at Hamilton back in the day, and the crowd of 700 people didn’t shout him down, they rose together in silence and left the room:

George Lincoln Rockwell at Hamilton College

George Lincoln Rockwell at Hamilton College excerpt

The completely politicized hyperbole by those at Brown — including many faculty members — who supported shutting Kelly down says a lot about the difference between campuses then and now.

And how campuses have become that which they purport to oppose.

Related Post:   Brown Prof apologizes for inviting Ray Kelly “especially to my black students and Latino brothers and sisters.”