08 Oct 2009

Cambridge Union Cancels Savage Debate Invitation

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Just one week before Michael Savage was scheduled to debate via video link at the Cambridge Union in England, the co-presidents of the two-century-old society informed the top-rated radio host they have canceled the event.

…(T)he invitation from the Cambridge Union Society for the Oct. 15 debate was issued in July after Savage was banned from entering the United Kingdom by Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s government along with Muslim extremists and leaders of hate groups.

In an e-mail today to Savage producer Beowulf Rochlen, Cambridge Union leaders Julien Domercq and Jonathan Laurence wrote, “It is with great regret to inform you of the difficult decision we have taken to cancel the event.”

Domercq and Laurence pointed to problems with the cost and feasibility of setting up the necessary video link, but they also cited “legal issues.”

“We have reconsulted with our counsel, and been informed that there are numerous legal issues with Dr Savage speaking here,” they wrote, “and so because of all of the technical, financial and legal problems involved, we have come to the reluctant conclusion that the event cannot proceed.” …

The July 2 invitation to the debate said the Cambridge Union had been following his case “with great interest” and believed he was “more qualified than anyone to talk about the subject of political correctness in American and Britain.”

The student society at the University of Cambridge wanted Savage to speak for the opposition in a debate titled “This House Believes Political Correctness is Sane and Necessary.”

The society, founded in 1815, has hosted the likes of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and American presidents Ronald Reagan and Theodore Roosevelt.

The cancellation of speaking appearance by controversial political figures on the right at student debating forums at elite universities as the result of pressure from on high has quite a long tradition.

I don’t think much of Michael Savage, née Weiner, myself, but this sort of thing only ever happens to controversial speakers from the political right. The most loathsome communist, the most extreme anti-humanity environmentalist, the noisiest representative of any kind of leftwing craziness can be allowed to speak on campus. Columbia can even host Mahmoud Ahmedinejad for a speech denouncing the United States.

An invitation to George Wallace to speak at the Yale Political Union was canceled by union officers under direct pressure from Yale President Kingman Brewster in the early 1960s. A decade later, the administration intervened again, forcing the YPU to rescind an invitation to speak to William Shockley. That second time, Yale conservatives determined to test free speech at Yale simply passed the responsibility for the invitation from one captive student organization to another, as the Yale administration continued to try forcing a cancellation. When the event actually was held, leftwing activists prevented Shockley from speaking at all. The embarrassment of a second public address at Yale (the left had also forcibly shut down a speech by General William Westmoreland a bit earlier) prevented from happening by force provoked a serious reexamination of Yale University’s commitment to free speech by the Woodward Committee, which issued a report strongly affirming the principle of Free Expression.

The Woodward Report resulted in Yale being one of relatively few major universities to escape the adoption of politically correct civility codes.

It sounds like the Cambridge Union caved in the face of pressure from the Labour Government rather than from the University. Free expression in Britain is clearly in trouble not merely at the university but at the national level.


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