Charles Murray Speaks at Harvard Without Incident
“The audience was attentive, or at least quiet.”
This is newsworthy because of the hostility that Murray was met with at Middlebury College earlier this year.
Murray described the scene at Harvard in an article at the Weekly Standard:
Harvard Shows How It Should Be Done
I was apprehensive as I flew to Boston on Wednesday. Protests were being organized for the lecture I was to give at Harvard that evening, and the intel made me think that another Middlebury might be in the works. Many of Harvard’s undergraduates are infected by the same virus that’s been going around elsewhere (“There’s no right to free speech for evil people, and we know who’s evil.”) And there were the guys in ski masks to worry about. Surely Antifa and Black Bloc have flourishing chapters in a place like Cambridge.
Getting beaten up wasn’t a concern. At Middlebury, Professor Allison Stanger did get beaten up, badly, as we struggled to get to the car, and that did not go unnoticed by college administrators. Since then, every campus I have visited has made sure that I got lots of police protection. But I did think it was likely that the students would be chanting and wouldn’t stop, fire alarms would be set off, and I wouldn’t be able to speak.
For that to have happened at Harvard would have been a disaster. If a nerdy, inoffensive speaker like me, lecturing on themes from Coming Apart (not a controversial book), could be shouted down at Harvard, we would be faced with a scary new normal. If not even Harvard, with all its resources, would protect free speech against the mob, then why would less exalted institutions be expected to do so? If a small minority of students gets to decide who is allowed to speak even at Harvard, what institution would hold the line?
But happily, my lecture went off without a hitch. The audience was attentive, or at least quiet. About ten minutes in, a dozen students, a few holding signs, got up and left, but they made no attempt to disrupt the lecture. There was half an hour of Q&A, with no holds barred on the questions I was asked and no holding back on my answers—just as a Q&A should be.
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Harvard was under strict scrutiny. They knew what would happen if they let the kids run wild, so they laid down the law. Rational self interest.
I was at university during the anti Vietnam war protest. At times those protests turned violent and more than once I was on the receiving end of a national guardsman’s night stick.
In the midst of this environment, Bob Hope came to campus for a performance. His pro-troop stance motivated some performers to pull out of his USO tours or refuse to appear with him on stage anywhere.
We shed our ripped army surplus wear to put on our best, or at least the best we had, to attend his performance. Outside of a couple of boos, the performance went on without incident before and after. In my group, we all thought it was a thoroughly enjoyable performanzw.