A Brutal Suppression of Speech

The increasingly common resort to diktats by U.S. authorities is a notable feature of contemporary American society — in all spheres, writes Michael Brenner.  

Police staging at UCLA during student pro-Palestine demonstrations on May 1. (Shared by people at the UCLA protest and encampment, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 4.0)

By Michael Brenner

Denial of civil liberties, accompanied by punishment for anybody who exposes those violations, has become commonplace in contemporary America.

Yet, nothing that the nation has experienced — and that the more discerning protest — prepared us for the grotesque spectacle on display in the brutal suppression of free speech on university campuses. 

What we witness is the iron fist of autocracy employed to intimidate, to hurt, to deter those who would question — however peaceably — the right of the powers-that-be to impose their confected version of the truth on the public. Moreover, it is grounded on an arbitrary assumption of power having no basis in law or customary practice.

Two singular features of this situation focus our attention. First, there is the stunning near unanimity of agreement by all segments of society’s elites on the rightness of the ruling narrative — and on the actions they take to enforce it. 

That is to say:

1) casting the issue as the dangerous radicalization of students by nefarious forces;

2) smearing demonstrators as “anti-Semites” — despite the large numbers of Jewish participants;

3) blanking out any reference to the cause and motivations of the protest: Israel’s genocide against the Palestinians; and

4) the need to crack down hard on these seditious students — physically by rioting police, and administratively by summary expulsions and suspensions without a semblance of due process.

These assertions emanate from the mouths of elected officials, police commissioners, media personalities, pundits and — most distressing — university presidents as well as boards of regents and trustees. 

Faculty Backing Students

UCLA faculty members supporting students at the pro-Palestine encampment on May 1.(Shared by people at the UCLA protest and encampment, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 4.0)

The single exception to this phalanx of elite solidarity is the untypical readiness of professors to side with their students — standing against higher university authorities at the manifest risk of retaliation. 

This is a break from what has become habitual deference to presidents, provosts and board members. It is also a departure from the previous abstention from addressing the most serious and consequential issues — be it serial futile wars of choice, or mass surveillance by federal and local authorities, or the takeover of the national economy by rent extracting predatory finance. 


There is plausible reason to believe that the readiness of those who run today’s university to act autocratically owes to the latitude they thereby have been accorded. The superego rooted in a sense of academic community has dissolved along with a sense of accountability. Hence, they are emboldened to act arbitrarily without regard to traditional academic norms.

Among members of Congress, we see raucous petitions of condemnation and fiery calls for severe punishment against demonstrators, their sympathizers and anyone else who might voice opposition to Israel’s actions (e.g. justices of the International Criminal Court in The Hague). 

Only one senator, Bernie Sanders, has had the courage and conviction to denounce this rabid assault on American democracy and civil liberties — however belatedly. 

The number of vocal critics in the House of Representatives can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

Second is the absence of any overt, tangible national interest at stake. This is not Vietnam that could be rationalized in terms of the Cold War. Nothing happening in Palestine/Israel poses the slightest threat to the security of the United States. There is no cherished principle that U.S. leaders feel obligated to uphold; quite the opposite, the United States itself is an accomplice to gross crimes against humanity.

Notably, President Joe Biden has paved the way for both the protests and the savage crackdown, for which he is acting as cheerleader, by failing to offer any reasonable excuse for making America a party to genocide and by slandering critics with a string of outlandish lies. 

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The crude vilification of students coming from all quarters calls out for explanation. So, too, the relishing of their physical abuses. These are not normal behaviors – in both senses of the word. This phenomenon is all the more stunning for the lack of a reasonable justification.

The protestors invariably were peaceful, there was no damage to property, no threats to persons, to obstruction to the normal workings of the universities. 

The couple of exceptions that involved flare ups were prompted by the authorities’ quick resort to severe penalties. Moreover, the students have been acting in accordance with the vaunted principles of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. In a cause of humanistic concern for others, free of any self-interest.

[See: Analysis: 97% of Campus Gaza Protests Nonviolent]

Part of the explanation lies in those acts of moral conscience themselves. For both selflessness and empathy with distant victims of abuse are traits foreign to most of the nation’s power holders. The juxtaposition exposes the crassness of ruling elites and infuriates them. Infuriates because there lingers just enough feelings rooted in a vague sense of common humanity to prick repressed conscience and to abrade their self-esteem.

Autocratic Impulses 

California Highway Patrol officers on May 2 fencing off the area where the UCLA student encampment was located. (Darlene L, Matt Baretto, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 4.0)

An even more important element is the growing attraction to holders of high office of autocratic attitudes and methods. Not just the trappings of power but its arbitrary exercise. 

That impulse is companion to, and requisite for controlling whomever or whatever might challenge that presumption. The increasingly common resort to diktats by authorities is a notable feature of contemporary American society — in all spheres.  

It is so commonplace as to be widely accepted as the norm. We experience it in organizations public and private — ranging from the Oval Office through state governments down to elite universities, charitable NGOs and foundations. 

Of course, this attitude and conduct has long been standard across the business world. In this era of impunity, accountability is a pale, sometimes thing. A general condition of social nihilism entices and emboldens the willful who crave arbitrary power for its own sake — and/or, those who exploit the opportunity to use illicit means to reach predefined objectives.

In the case that we are examining, a variety of actors moved swiftly to turn the student demonstrations to their advantage. 

Foremost among them were the avowed Zionists. That heteroclite grouping was galvanized by the mission to support Israel’s onslaught against the Palestinians in the cause of creating a Greater Israel “between the Sea and the Jordan” as is proclaimed in the charter of the Likud Party

At the very top were Biden along with senior officials such as Secretary of State Antony Blinken; Congress members who either strongly identified with the Jewish state or were long indebted to AIPAC for campaign funding; owners, publishers and editors in the key media outlets; and leaders of evangelical churches that see in the return of the Jews to the Holy Land a sure sign that the Day of Judgment was on the horizon. 

 Blinken with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Tel Aviv on Jan. 9. (State Department/ Chuck Kennedy)

Together, since Oct. 7, they had constructed a narrative that cast Israel as the unalloyed “good guy” who was the victim of Hamas’ unprovoked terrorist crimes. 

It became pervasive and iron clad. Deviations from that line were stigmatized as anti-Semitic and repressed. Hence, the upwelling of student protesters was slotted into the narrative as representing an intolerable rejection of that script by Israel’s enemies. Harsh measures naturally followed.

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The endorsement of harsh measures was at once implicit and explicit. Rhetoric from the White House set the tone. 

It enabled MAGA Republicans in Congress to drive their own campaign to denigrate the Democrats by slinging the electoral albatross of “woke” activism across their shoulders as part of their plan to channel the emotions of the pro-Israel forces to favor themselves as Israel’s true defenders — “holier than the Pope.” 

Furthermore, the ensuing maelstrom created by contenders for the role of exorcist-in-chief of the youthful heresy prompted sociopaths of multiple stripes to jump into the fray.

There we find the militarized riot policy playing out their fantasies of cracking heads in Fallujah or  Kandahar (a fair number of whom were in fact veterans of those locales); the End-of-Times fanatics in tense expectation of Armageddon in the Holy Land; the militant agitators for Cold War II who fused a cartoon image of an innocent democratic Israel with a brave Ukraine heroically resisting the Axis of Evil II represented by Iran, Russia and China.    

The most telling incident occurred at UCLA. There, a masked gang of Hebrew jihadis armed with clubs assaulted an encampment of peaceful students under cover of night. Fifteen of the victims were hospitalized. The pogrom went on for three hours. 

Campus police and LAPD cops were present; their only response was to slip into the shadows and to take in the show. None of the gang has been identified or apprehended.  No police commander has been penalized or reprimanded.

Careerists & Conformists 

This abbreviated taxonomy of the forces arrayed against the student protesters leaves out the many others in positions of influence who have participated in the psychodrama — persons who had neither passionate views about the protagonists “over there,” nor an evident drive to gather power and (ab)use it. 

Their complicity can be understood by reference to two cardinal elements in their make-up and that of their institutions. 

Foremost is careerism — broadly conceived. Advancing upwards in status, monetary award and power is the paramount consideration among professionals in every sphere of life.  Accordingly, avoidance of rocking boats or being seen as anything but a team player is imperative.

Conformism is the watchword. Those who fail to observe those admonitions tend to get weeded out early on. The ensuing behavior pattern of “go along to get ahead” is pronounced, and readily observable, among journalists cum media personalities; aspiring think tankers; academics and, of course, the vast majority of politicos.

The second salient element is the instilled disposition to tolerate aberrant, self-interested behavior that circumvents rules, norms, conventions — and even laws. In short, they have been acculturated to the strong nihilistic/narcissistic tendencies of contemporary society. 

Let’s enumerate some of the events they have witnessed — and which inescapably shape attitudes as to what is permissible.

No 1) A succession of U.S. presidents who have employed systematic deceit to embroil the country in failed, futile wars. None of whom have been held accountable or even moved to say “sorry.”

Dec. 15, 2006: President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld leave Pentagon on way to Rumsfeld’s farewell ceremony. (DOD, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen)

No. 2) Systematic surveillance of American citizens without warrant in overt violation of the Fourth Amendment.

No. 3) The granting to the commander-In-chief the authority to assassinate Americans abroad if they are judged to be threats to national security.

No. 4) Institutionalized torture of “enemy combatants” in violation of both international and national law.

Jan. 11, 2012: Protester in Washington with an Amnesty International sign, calling for the end of the Guantánamo military commissions. (Justin Norman, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

No. 5) The multiple criminal acts committed by Donald Trump — the most prominent of which would be pretty much “open-and-shut-cases” were the alleged perpetrator not a vindictive former president.

No. 6) The unprecedented actions of federal courts (and some state courts) to hamstring judicial proceedings on the flimsiest and most spurious grounds.

No. 7) The attorney general of the United States shirking his sworn responsibility to enforce the laws against criminality without regard to position, status or standing.

No. 8) Private companies who own social media sites mandated to censor persons and content (as guided by agencies of the federal government) in overt violation of the First Amendment.

Should we be surprised these realities undermine the sense of civic responsibility and commitment to upholding institutional integrity among our elites across the span of American institutions?   

Moreover, we should bear in mind that our present twisted civic culture has crystallized over a period of 30 years or more. Thus, what we experience in post-constitutional/post-rules and norms America has come to appear natural.

Fewer and fewer people have more than a dim awareness of anything different. For most, what they observe is taken as given – absent other reference points.  This is not a matter of an old system of norms being replaced by a new set; rather, we are entering a world where there are NO norms.

Fawn, Wolf & Headless Chicken 

Let’s examine how this has played out among university officials. Academic authorities include presidents, regents, trustees and state or local officeholders

One can discern three patterns of behavior: the fawn, the wolf, the headless chicken. Fawns are vulnerable, defensive, low in self-confidence and instinctively run and hide rather than fight. When targeted, they freeze; when ordered they respond obediently. The prime examples are the leaders of Harvard, Penn and MIT before the Star Chamber proceedings of the House Committee on Education. 

Rep. Virginia Foxx opening a hearing on anti-Semitism on college campuses on Dec. 5, 2023. (C-Span still)

Savaged by belligerent demagogues who use the term “Ivy League” as an epithet, they melted. Figuratively speaking, they looked down at their feet, twisted their peasant caps in their hands and spoke with subdued deference. 

Absurd charges of anti-Semitism, of appeasing Hamas sympathizers, of failing to preserve order were flung at the trio. Neither civil Republicans nor Committee Democrats offered any succor. 

Not one of the presidents confronted their accusers; none spoke forcefully about the ethos of a university; none had the pride expected of those who represent prestigious institutions. Instead, they fell back on the feeble talking points provided them by university lawyers who themselves gave primacy to accommodation of the inquisitors. 

So, the presidents fumbled and stumbled and promised to do better. The reaction to their performance was all accusatory and negative. They were indicted for not following the Zionist line as defined by the American government. Apologies followed. Harvard and Penn fired two of them.

The abject written apologies were not enough. Harvard’s Board of Governors and Penn’s Board of Trustees forced the two sacrificial lambs to walk the plank. The blades in their backs were pressed by AIPAC apparatus and a couple of billionaire donors. 

In each instance, one particular individual sallied forth to become the public face of outraged donors. The Harvard donor was Bill Ackman who relished his moment in the limelight to leverage his $40 million gift to extract a string of concessions from the university administration — themselves pressed by the governors.

Harvard University Free Palestine Camp, May 2. (Dariusz Jemielniak, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 4.0)

Quite a performance in the light of Harvard’s $50 billion endowment that grows by about $4 billion annually — 10 times that given by the donor who, along with other donors, successfully held the university to ransom.

Together, the aforementioned individuals and institutions formed the wolf pack. Imposing, quick to strike and secure in their status as apex predators of the academic realm, they felt no compunction at eliminating anyone who they thought tarnished the reputation of their university or, even more intolerable, questioned by word or deed their authority. 

A similar spectacle has been on view on campuses across the country – with some small variations in the modalities. 

A sobering datum is that not a single university president, not a single board, has forthrightly defended the integrity of their institutions, the principle of free speech that is at their core, or dared to condemn the police riots at Emory, at Columbia, at UCLA.   

The one university president who did stand out was Columbia’s Minouche Shafik.  She thrust herself forward as the ruthless Iron Lady able and willing to crush the subverters of good order — mental as well as physical. 

Her response was a torrent of ad hominem accusations directed at the protestors, a total ignoring of the multiform harassment of both demonstrators and Muslim students generally (including physical attacks by former IDF exchange students), immediate summary expulsions, and a summons to New York Mayor Eric Adams (himself a jackal posturing as a “wolf”) to send 1,000 cops to cleanse the campus. Columbia University, as of today, is shuttered under what amounts to martial law.

Students inside the campus gates of Columbia wave Palestinian flags through the bars, April 22. (SWinxy, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

[This use of the term “wolf” is a libel of actual wolves. They are not mean-spirited in the sense connotated here. They hunt/fight only as required to survive. Strikingly, they show a keen sense of communal well-being.

The pack “establishment” knows that caring for the welfare of all its members — especially its young — is a requisite for avoiding extinction. In this respect, wolves demonstrate superior functional intelligence to humans.]

Shafik has an unusual provenance for a university president. She is a British-Egyptian baroness who built her career at the Bank of England, World Bank and International Monetary Fund. 

The daughter of very wealthy landholders on the Nile, Shafik seems to view the student demonstrations as a sort of peasant revolt. She reacted accordingly — unhesitatingly using force in the form of the New York Police Department, who, in riot gear and with guns drawn, ruthlessly broke up the students’ encampment, and beat and arrested over 100 of them. 

Shafik at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2020. (World Economic Forum/Faruk Pinjo, Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

They were charged with “criminal trespassing” on their own campus. 

In Chris Hedges words, 

These administrators demand…..total obedience. Dissent. Freedom of expression. Critical thought. Moral outrage. These have no place in our corporate-indentured universities.”

The baroness was not finished — there was yet another veil to drop for her full character to be exposed. As The New York Post reported on May 11, citing a student journalist:

“Columbia University president Minouche Shafik will skip the biggest ceremony for graduating seniors on campus next week ….

A note that went out to student at Columbia College — which is attended by more than half of the university’s undergraduate students — indicated that Shafik would not appear at ‘Class Day.’ The Class Day celebrations typically feature student and keynote speakers, and are a chance for graduates to walk across the stage and shake hands with the dean and university president before they are formally conferred their degrees. Class Day is also a major opportunity for friends and family members to celebrate the completion of studies at the $90,000-per-year university.”

Shafik’s absence at the May 14 event was quietly announced via an addendum to a Class Day information email that was sent to students.

The large majority of university authorities are not clear cut fawns or wolves — their moral DNA reveals mutated lineages from both. They are headless chickens. 

Their characteristic reaction was shock and fear at being confronted with a situation wherein they had neither the aptitude nor the experience nor the personality to understand what was going on — much less manage it. 

Initial paralysis quickly gave way to sporadic, impulse actions.  Their leadership manuals admonished them to do something — whether or not it was part of a considered plan or strategy. Their standard action has been to call in the cops.

That, at least, would clear the campus for graduation ceremonies, give the impression of a semblance of order returning, and made for better visuals once the debris and blood had been cleared from the encampments.

Talk to the protesting students? Out of the question for university leaders who had no idea what to say to moral idealists standing up for a bunch of Arabs. They had no specific demands — like deeper discounts on football tickets — that one could get a handle on. (What motivates these student protesters?

I can’t figure out what’s in it for them. These people are like total aliens. Then, how could I expose myself to attacks accusing me of coddling terrorist lovers, anti-Semites, thugs? That could jeopardize my job and throw me back into the classroom and my stuffy, tiny department office.)

The emblematic headless chicken is the president of University of Southern California. She staked out her claim to notoriety even before the protests began. The school’s graduating valedictorian was slated to be a young Muslim American woman, Asna Tabassum, who majored in bio-medical engineering. 

When it was disclosed that her Twitter page included remarks spotlighting Palestinian grievances and condemning Israeli apartheid, a flurry of denunciation by the usual suspects was directed at the university. 

They demanded that Tabassum be barred from speaking as scheduled. President Carol Folt caved in by removing her from the program — along with other scheduled outside speakers. Thus purified, the ceremony went ahead.

Her public letter to Tabassum stressed that USC had nothing against her personally, reiterated the school’s commitment to free speech and expressed confidence of her professional success in her future endeavors. 

Unfortunately, free speech had to take a sabbatical in the interests of public safety, i.e. troublemakers might interrupt the proceedings and cause turmoil. Later protest demonstrations were dealt with in the same feckless manner.

Folt was censured, and asked to resign, by the faculty Senate. The mention of Asna Tabassum’s name during the graduation ceremony prompted loud applause.

So what? It is doubtful that she lost any sleep over these rebukes. After all, when you hold high office in a large institution you have a responsibility to make hard decisions that force you to place its welfare ahead of everyday morality — isn’t that what President Barack Obama told us in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech?

To get perspective on these headless chickens, one must bear in mind that today’s university presidents — along with the boards that appoint them — have little engagement with broad educational issues. 

On national issues beyond the confines of the university they are a non-presence. The bulk of their time is spent raising money, buttering up alumni, pacifying hostile state legislatures and oiling the gears of the ever-expanding bureaucratic machine that has overshadowed the groves of academe. 

Admittedly, there are occasional crises: a scandal in the athletic department, battles over transgender bathrooms and the like. That’s about it.  

A sense of common humanity and the instinct to defend those vulnerable to willful abuse — however distant they may be — has reemerged. The spontaneous youth demonstrations of moral witness shows that the seed of political virtue somehow survived the 25-year ethical drought we have experienced. 

These green shoots are fragile, though. The campaign to weed them out will not relent. Indeed, efforts to sterilize the soil will be redoubled.

The wielders of arbitrary power are skillfully riding a wave of autocracy which has transformed American civic life. Formidable obstacles manned by hard, self-righteous people stand in the way of a rebirth of collective conscience. Unless they can be overcome, we may well see the further retreat from enlightened principles as governance of the people, by the people, for the people fades into the national memory book. 

Michael Brenner is a professor of international affairs at the University of Pittsburgh, [email protected]

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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30 comments for “A Brutal Suppression of Speech

  1. May 24, 2024 at 18:40

    “For both selflessness and empathy with distant victims of abuse are traits foreign to most of the nation’s power holders.”

    Correction: For both selflessness and empathy with anyone but themselves are traits foreign to most of the nation’s power holders.

    • Nathan Mulcahy
      May 25, 2024 at 15:12

      I thought Trump was going to bring fascism.…

  2. Tom Hall
    May 24, 2024 at 15:05

    “There is plausible reason to believe that the readiness of those who run today’s university to act autocratically owes to the latitude they thereby have been accorded. ” I respectfully disagree. They’re accorded far less latitude than their predecessors. In the past, university and college administrators were expected to make decisions based on their own reading of a given situation, its relative gravity, and other factors revealed to them through many years of experience in academic society. Public interference by politicians was rare and usually rebuffed. Today’s managers- and that’s what they are, not administrators- are much more restricted in their freedom of action. They are hirelings of boards, put in place to see that institutions of learning are run according to neoliberal principles to the satisfaction of big donors, financial syndicates, and the military-industrial complex.

    Does anyone seriously believe that the spectacles we’re seeing in which Presidents and Chancellors are haled before a Congressional Committee filled with dopes and crooks, to be subjected to insults and demands for resignation- that any of this was a feature of past episodes of dissent on campus? The universities have been captured by capital in a radical sense, intended for a vast hollowing of purpose, replaced with courses and degrees aimed at producing mid-level fodder for the offices and work stations of the brave new world. These college and university officials are calling the cops because they understand that’s what’s required of them. Flying to Washington in order to be forced to confess their shame before a McCarthyite committee is just an added fillip, a sadistic show for the gratification of a segment of the public that would like to see an end to open inquiry in the United States and an end to the freedoms they despise. As for the puppeteers, they don’t bother to tune in. They’re too busy working the phones and writing checks.

    • Rafael
      May 24, 2024 at 22:43

      Well said!

  3. shmutzoid
    May 24, 2024 at 14:37

    Good piece here by Brenner. —- He could’ve gone into the hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts the US gov. has with many universities. Dept. of Defense and other agencies partner with more than a few universities on various projects. It is remiss to not even mention these material transactions as influencing a college admin’s response to these protests. ——Boards of Regents for universities are typically made up of wealthy, politically connected individuals. Hedge funds posing as colleges – that’s today’s “higher education” ecosystem. ——- Protest against the State will not be tolerated.

  4. susan
    May 24, 2024 at 11:55

    Thank you again, Professor Brenner, for this lucid and thought-provoking article. McCarthyism at its best on our university campuses. We should all be ashamed and sickened at how these peaceful students & faculty were treated by our ‘military police forces’.

  5. vinnieoh
    May 24, 2024 at 11:32

    Thank you, as always, Professor Brenner.

    The narrative must not be challenged or proven defective in any of its pronouncements. There shall be no chinks in the armor of authoritative “leadership.”

    Any error, any apparent untruth, no matter how small, threatens a cascade reaction of cognitive dissonance that may cause the whole construct to collapse. Or so, that is what is feared by the authoritarians. We know that mindset from all flavors of religious fundamentalism, and the US power elite are certainly infected with Christian nationalist fundamentalism.

    If those in authoritative power were truly certain of their morals, ethics, and justness of their cause they would not so fear any and all dissent. The fact that they do fear it is absolute proof of the untruthfulness and dishonesty of their claims, and the entire narrative of the last several decades (- just for instance, certainly much longer.)

    May 24, 2024 at 10:22

    There’s nothing like getting tear gassed or billy clubbed to radicalize a young person, as some of us oldtimers discovered a long time ago. The iron fist is in the velvet glove, behind the smiles of politicians, regardless of party or public statements. Authoritarians rage at disobedience and their hired hard men –can we be honest- live for the opportunity to inflict injury and get away with it.

    May we also consider that weaponizing the FBI and the “justice” system against Trump to sabotage this year’s election is as great as any mischief he could bring about if returned to office. This is a vicious dogfight between factions of the same oligarchy. Neither is on our side.

  7. Vera Gottlieb
    May 24, 2024 at 10:13

    The ghost of Adolf Hitler and his goons unmistakably.

  8. Michael McNulty
    May 24, 2024 at 04:39

    This suppression can only be done with the agreement of the cops. Just thugs. Just filth. Why won’t they say no to cracking the heads of their own brightest youth to serve a dangerous US government and a despicable Israel?

  9. Caliman
    May 24, 2024 at 04:02

    A stupendous article … says it all, almost :)

    Only thing I’d add: these presidents and others who have so let down their own schools, morals, professors and most importantly students need to be ritually shamed and hounded out of their positions of trust and respect forthwith.

    No meetings with them, no contracts under their name, no social contact, nothing to normalize their betrayal and lack of leadership. Hound them like S Africa leaders in the 80s … same goes re the rich freaks like Ackerman who have used their wealth as a weapon.

  10. anaisanesse
    May 24, 2024 at 02:07

    I see nobody has commented yet. It is understandable. How can people in the USA be proud of their nation when it has renounced any of the principles alleged to be at its core.

  11. Jeff Harrison
    May 24, 2024 at 01:13

    Yes, madam, you have your republic… if you can keep it.

  12. JohnB
    May 24, 2024 at 00:54

    When was branding ever an adequit substitute for charactor??

  13. Nonclassical1
    May 24, 2024 at 00:50

    …not for the first time, THANK YOU, sir

  14. May 23, 2024 at 22:34

    The article should be very meaningful. Unfortunately, the digression to attack Donald Trump impacted its credibility which is a shame as everything else was spot on. I am a Trump opponent, not a supporter, but the abuse of the legal and prosecutorial systems against him are obvious, as was the Deep State electoral meddling in the 2020 campaign. Taking a pot shot against him rather than opposing his policies, which even if effective ignore essential underlying issues, was a poor tactic.

    • torture this
      May 24, 2024 at 09:31

      Singling Trump out for his minor crimes that pale in comparison to those of his predecessors and Biden. Talk about a headless chicken!

    • Tim N
      May 24, 2024 at 10:14

      How did he attack Trump? A single sentence truthfully mentioning that Trump is a criminal is not unreasonable.

    • mary-lou
      May 24, 2024 at 14:01

      thank you for mentioning this; much more unforgiveable missteps were performed by many other politicians, well-illustrated by the included Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld picture.

    • Gregory Herr
      May 25, 2024 at 13:11

      A few weeks ago at a Trump rally some attendees held up signs and called out “Genocide Joe.” Trump said “they’re right you know.” Trump repeated the line for effect. So essentially Trump admitted the reality of genocide. In the ensuing weeks, however, he has blathered about “law & order” and basically derided the protests. I think it would be more to the point to criticize Trump in this way. He’s just a crass politician in the same vein as Schumer, Graham, Biden, ad nauseam.

    • Susan Siens
      May 25, 2024 at 17:11

      Thank you, Guillermo, for your comment. That was the point at which I stopped reading, and I, too, am not a Trump supporter. I don’t have much if any respect for academics, so I wasn’t surprised that Brenner couldn’t see the endless cases against Trump as supporting his very premise.

    • Tony Pasqualoni
      May 25, 2024 at 19:35

      Well said, Sir. I will not vote for Donal Trump either, but clearly he is a victim of the moneyed faction known as “The Democratic Party.” Our judicial system has been co-opted.

    • Daniel
      May 26, 2024 at 12:57

      Yup. Had to stop reading at that point. If Trump is such an obvious criminal, where is the proof behind the blanket statement of “fact” that he is? Why mention him at all in this article?

      I will not be voting for Trump. But articles making flip comments about him, as here (to say nothing of the gutting of our legal institutions to prosecute him) make me hope he beats his opponents, who I will also not vote for.

  15. Piotr Berman
    May 23, 2024 at 21:11

    The events described by Prof. Brenner remind me my memories of 1968, when rulers of Poland turned to more heavy handed rule which results with student protests. I was in 7th grade, my older brother was a student of Politechnika that was 5 minute walk from my home. Many thousands of students were suspended or expelled, some for very innocent acts. I asked my brother: couldn’t they appeal to the dean? Demoted. President? Demoted. The repression did not have Stalinist bite to them, only “leaders” got several year sentences, a lot more few months in jail (I am not sure if sentenced or not), and to my knowledge, all finished their education.

    While USA is nowhere near that, it definitely moved in that direction. Hateful language by “figures of authorities”, political and business leaders, and demands for repressions (that was missing in 1968 Poland for obvious reasons, authorities being as swift as solons in Congress could demand). Honestly, until recently I was not aware about the power of Christian Zionist, one Congressman was drilling hapless Pres. Shafik in Biblical curses laid upon those who curse Israel. Needless to say, nobody in Congress, be the hearing witnesses nor Congress member pointed out that this is not a universally accepted theology, or that theological arguments of that specificity cannot guide universities.

    The theological bent is important, because zealots think that divine will is more important than laws, including international conventions and domestic laws that are motivated by those conventions. For example, American laws requires that buyers of weapons and beneficiaries of aid do not commit human right abuses. Thus State Department is duly determining that Israel is as clean as fresh snow. But zealots in Israeli cabinet and the likes of Pompeo and Rick Allen do not care about law of ANY kind other than their interpretation of biblical prophesies.

    Interestingly, by web search, I have found an intelligent critique of Rick Allen and by implication, the repression of students, written in Baptist News Global by a pastor (I do not know how important it is that those are not Southern Baptists):

    And a biblically illiterate Congressman shall lead them

    OpinionMark Wingfield | May 2, 2024

    • Rafael
      May 24, 2024 at 12:44

      Are you sure that the USA is “nowhere near that”, Piotr? In the same year of 1968 the American police and military shot students to death in at least two universities, Kent and Jackson State. I don’t know whether this happened in Poland, but I did observe, in a visit during the heyday of the Solidarnosc uprising, how relatively gently the Polish “forces of order” acted compared to what I was used to in the US. The Polish intelligentsia, incidentally, were amazingly ignorant about the “West”, and uniformly believed the crude propaganda being dished out by Radio Free Europe and Voice of America.

      • Piotr Berman
        May 25, 2024 at 17:34

        Milicja could beat up a little crowd of students (I did not witness worse), but it was before riot gear etc. I mean numerical aspects of the purge, the numbers of demoted faculty, expelled students, arrests etc. Something that many members of Congress bitterly complain about: why it did not happen?

  16. Richard L Romano
    May 23, 2024 at 20:45

    Things look bad as Michael Brenner most brilliantly documents BUT they are much much worse.

  17. Bob Martin
    May 23, 2024 at 18:06

    Beautifully written and full of wisdom. Thank you.

  18. Rich Ray
    May 23, 2024 at 17:45

    Great thanks to Michael Brenner and Consortium News for this fine review of the destruction of higher education here in the good old You Were Say. One thing Mr. Brenner might want to add is the deeply sinister connection between the Israeli intelligence complex and the NYPD, a direct tie highlighted by Adjunct Professor Rebecca Weiner, who moonlights in the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and is head of the NYPD’s Counterterrorism division. You simply cannot make this stuff up.

    • mary-lou
      May 24, 2024 at 14:04

      on the Israeli/R. Weiner’s entanglement with NYPD – hxxps://thegrayzone.com/2024/05/02/columbia-crackdown-university-nypd/

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