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How Now, Brown? Universities Shut Down Free Speech.

Block earsBy Dan Olmsted

Back in 2010, Mark Blaxill and I were invited to talk about our book at the Brown University bookstore. It was a good event. A few days later, a student named David Sheffield wrote a column for The Brown Daily Herald that said:

“While Brown should welcome a broad range of viewpoints, we should not allow ourselves to be used as a soapbox for whomever would like to come speak. There is a point at which the damage done by hosting a speaker outweighs the benefits.

“Last Friday, the Brown Bookstore hosted Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill, the authors of ‘The Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-Made Epidemic,’ for ‘a reading and [discussion] of their research.” Research is a highly generous word to use to describe what the authors have done. Essentially, they repackaged the last decade’s worth of claims that mercury causes autism, disregarding the actual research that shows those claims to be utterly false. Study after study has shown that autism is not caused by mercury in vaccines.’”

Ergo, we shouldn’t have been allowed to speak. Now – and it’s hard not to feel a bit of schadenfreude over it – Brown is mired in a much broader, but not much different, debate over free speech. Many Brown students, it seems, are against it when it doesn’t suit their purposes. In a long and thoughtful piece on the Daily Beast – “Brown University Professor Denounces ‘McCarthy’ Witch Hunts” – the threat to free expression becomes clear.

Outrage over minority oppression has morphed into the idea that certain kinds of speech are unwelcome on campus. She quotes an anonymous professor:

“More disconcerting than the nature and tone of recent protests to this professor is the lack of concern over freedom of speech—or what he referred to as ‘freedom of expression’—on campus.

“‘’Freedom of speech’ is a little tough,’ he said. ‘It’s not the perfect phrase to use, partly because we’re a private institution and we’re not talking about government action. I like to use ‘freedom of expression.’ Universities are supposed to be places of freedom of expression."

It’s worth reading the whole piece -- “I think freedom of speech in general has a lot of problems because of power dynamics, just racially and otherwise, so you have to be cautious,” sophomore Sierra Edd said” -- to get the flavor of what’s going on. It appears that students there, and across the country, are both both infantilizing themselves – help protect us from upsetting words! – and becoming the arbiters of the parameters of acceptable speech.

I’m not passing judgment on the validity of their substantive concerns – although the stifling of a discussion of Halloween costumes at Yale, my alma meter, was both spooky and goofy. Rather, it’s worth seeing how little value seems to be placed on free speech and free expression these days, especially by younger people. Did they miss Civics? Have helicopter parents made them feel like the center of the universe? Are they vaccine damaged?

It’s a topic we’re all familiar with from the vaccines and autism debate, which vaccine injury deniers have been trying to shut down any way they can. As I’ve said, the premise that ideas are too dangerous to discuss has no place in a democracy.

Yet the online site Jurist, sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, last month argued exactly that. In an article “Legally Limiting Lies About Vaccines,” the authors – both law professors – asked: “Can messengers of openly false statements that contravene the public's health be stopped?

The article offers all kinds of remedies such as this: “For example, if governmental health officials publicize false statements linking child vaccines and autism, they could lawfully be censored or fired from their positions. They have no constitutional right to spread false statements antithetical to the mission of their agency or office.”

So censor or fire them – and, the article suggest, sue politicians if they suggest vaccines cause autism, just as the beef industry sued Oprah (note to Jurist: she won).

This all came together in one lovely package recently. AOA reader Judy Ritchie sent me a piece from the Concord Monitor that began: “NHTI professor Nathan Strong knew that inviting a prominent opponent of vaccination to speak to a class about the science of vaccines would be a little controversial.

“That turned out to be a good prediction, as long as ‘a little’ is translated as ‘very.’ Maybe even ‘very, very.’

“’I was not expecting the reaction,’ admitted Strong, who has taught in the biology department at NHTI for 21 years, including a stint as department head.

Strong had invited Laura Condon of the NVIC to talk about vaccine safety issues. In the article, everyone was backpedaling as fast as possible.

“Strong wrote in a letter to critics, not because he wanted to present some sort of balance to the issue of vaccination – he realizes there’s no debate about the incredible value that society receives from inoculation programs – but ‘so the class had the opportunity to hear all the false arguments . . . and be able to recognize them as such.

And the writer of the article, Dave Brooks, felt compelled to pledge allegiance to the flag of vaccines:

“The historical and scientific evidence is clear that widespread vaccination programs are one of the great accomplishments of humanity, eliminating more suffering than almost anything we’ve ever done. Opposing vaccines and government inoculation mandates is like opposing societal programs to provide clean drinking water.” He ended with: “I’m off to get my flu shot.”

Commenters included the Dorit Reiss Amen Chorus: “Exactly. By inviting someone like Ms. Condon, which advocates against protecting children from diseases by constant use of misinformation, Prof. Strong allowed her to claim legitimacy she does not deserve. Even if none of the students are misled by her – and that cannot be guaranteed, however thoughtful and careful they are: anyone can be misled – others may see it as acknowledging that her point of view is legitimate. But a point of view that relies solely on misinformation is not legitimate. And a point of view that puts children at risk because of misinformation is dangerous.

Ms. Condon has many forums in which to promote her false claims. A university class should not be one of them.”

Exactly wrong, Ms. Reiss: A university should be a forum for free speech. Vaccine safety, it turns out, is just another unpopular idea that the First Amendment deniers want to shout down.


Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.


Birgit Calhoun

It would be interesting to see that kind of anti-free speech law be tested. It would go both ways. The current problems in academia with often questionable adherence to scientific principles and facts and how many scientific studies and papers are retracted will become an issue. I somehow can't see it happening. Apparently it would be a very big step if this country were to single out the right to free speech regarding vaccines and not all other falsehoods being propagated by the media.


Thank you for your quoting of Patrick Henry. It brings to mind a quote from another courageous man. Different time, same sentiment.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
“And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?... The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin's thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If...if...We didn't love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation.... We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.”

Angus, Good job testifying to the ossified functionaries. Thanks for your time researching and sticking your neck out there so more people could hear this message. MMR ROH (rot in hell) --brad call

Gary Ogden

This is truly frightening. What more can I say? God help us.

Christina Waldman

The last part of Patrick Henry's "Liberty or Death" speech, March 23, 1775: "They tell us, sir, that we are weak - unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of Hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?

Sir, we are not weak, if we make a proper use of the means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us.

Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat, but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged, their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable - and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come!

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, peace, peace - but there is no peace. The war is actually begun. The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death! Those loud mouths don't speak for everybody.

 Anita Donnelly

Couldn't we use this type of law against dorit and offit etc for lying about thr 100% safety of vaccines? I know lots of parents of brain injured babies who would love the chance to make Offit and dorit pay for their lies.

Birgit Calhoun

I find it frightening that freedom of speech is treated with so little respect. I presume that's because people are starting to be afraid of anything that takes them out of their comfort zone. Freedom of speech is, in my opinion, the most important of all amendments of the Constitution. It prevents violence. The saying "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" was intended prevent violence. With all the gun violence in the news, students need to be reminded why the Free Speech Amendment was put into the Constitution, especially at this time when gun violence is in the news so much.


Except the up the nose isn't given to kids under two and I'm pretty sure not during pregnancy either, so ? I have no doubt though, that if they wanted the up the nose to be on the market, it would be.

Anne McElroy Dachel

Dan, thank you for this excellent, timely and troubling piece. It reminds me of exactly what Kirsten Powers talked about her book, The Silencing--How the Left is Killing Free Speech.

"Campuses across the United States have become ground zero for silencing free speech. Universities founded to encourage diversity of thought and debate have become incubators of intolerance where non-sanctioned
views are silenced though bullying, speech codes, 'free speech zones,' and other illiberal means."

Anne Dachel, Media

Laura Hayes


I think the reason there is no nasal flu vaccine this year is to very purposefully reduce/eliminate choice, and force parents/people to accept the thimerosal-laden version, as is now happening in CA to pregnant women and infants, despite a law in place to prevent the known mercury poisoning of fetuses and infants via vaccines (as there's apparently a "shortage" of "thimerosal-free" influenza vaccines).

This is strikingly similar to removing the choice of the single M, M, and R vaccines by stopping their manufacture, thus forcing people to use the combination MMR vaccine should they choose to be vaccinated, or should they be forced to be vaccinated by mandates.

It's about control, profits, forcing people to accept what the powers that be dictate, and always ensuring maximum harm to the greatest number of people to continually reduce/eliminate any control group that would definitively show the carnage left in the wake of vaccines.

Tony Bateson

Well let's give these folk the dignity of having a collected record of all those studies that show the involvement of mercury in neurological harm to be 'utterly false'. I suspect that this will be a thin book but we have to start somewhere so perhaps they will supply the first entry. I will maintain the register and it can be transparently open to all. I have some spare time from my college studies this month and next so let's get cracking please.

Tony Bateson, Oxford, UK


People with very strong financial and career interests in denying vaccine harm are working hard to deny/suppress free speech regarding vaccine harm.

Unfortunately these cynical people are apparently joined by naive people who are snowed by the hype and believe it is in the public's best interest to deny/suppress free speech on these issues, in order to protect the public from terrible epidemics by means of (supposedly) harmless safe vaccines.

These apparent idealists forget that free speech is not just about allowing those with correct opinions to express their opinions. The whole point is that if there is a centralized arbitrator of which opinions are correct and allowed, that is not free speech.

And good science involves open minded debate and experimentation, not dogma and suppression of not only speech but thought patterns.

In the days of Galileo, many were quite sure that the sun revolved around the earth, and Galileo was punished for saying that the earth revolved around the sun. To us this is ridiculous, but at the time many were quite sure of their beliefs.

What if the Viet Nam war protesters had been told they were not allowed to speak out since the U.S. was (according to those in power) correct in its actions? And it's easy to look back on 1960's civil rights protesters as right, and abuse of protesters as wrong. But at the time those who were clearly in the wrong (trying to continue segregation) were quite sure they were right.

Likewise with religion. Freedom of religion doesn't mean, "I have the right to practice my religion because mine is the right religion, but anyone who wants to practice some other religion or be agnostic or atheist is wrong and should have no rights." The point is, people have different views on religion, different forms of religious faith and ways of worshipping, and the rights of many must be protected.

To censor speech on vaccines strikes at the heart of the principles upon which this country is founded, no matter how sure some people are that they are right in supporting the vaccine program. It's odd that so many liberals who support free speech in many arenas have a blind spot when it comes to free speech on vaccines.

Not sure why many on all sides of these arguments seem to feel these days, "I am right, therefore my complete intolerance towards anyone with a different opinion is right." Instead of having an acceptance of people forming different opinions based on their experiences and knowledge, there is a feeling of, "I would support you in expressing your opinions if you had the right opinions, but your opinions are wrong. I'm totally sure of that; I know it without any doubt."

Of course, legally free speech only refers to the govt's actions, but regarding the colloquial meaning it's really a shame that there is so much censorship of vaccine issues by the media and in the fields of medicine, science, politics, and more.

Tim Lundeen

You all might like Jonathan Rauch's book, Kindly Inquisitors.The New Attacks on Free Thought.


Why do you think the up your nose flu vaccine never made it to market this year? I think it's because the powers that be know that it sheds and is a disaster. Even though the science shows the thing sheds and increases nasal bacterial carriage, at least in mice, the government is not about to make that announcement. Certainly, there will be no apology. They'll just quietly direct the public to look elsewhere while they grab the deck and change their cards.

If there were FDA reports in the past about vaccines, I'd say don't hold your breath for any to appear going forward. Mustn't confuse the public. Mustn't jeopardize (religious) faith in the Program, especially when they're doing such a good job of deceiving the young. And besides, what they're doing about your health and why is none of your damn business.


People are allowed Freedom of Speech but only if what you're saying is what the government wants others to hear. It's up there with the mythical American Dream and America the land of opportunity. Freedoms in the US are dictated by the length of the rope the government has around you neck. Tug too hard and they will choke the life out of you.

The Vaccine Wars, which the CDC & corporate America have been planning for the last 35 years-has created an "either you're for us or against us attitude". Sounds familiar? During the buildup to manipulate and convince the American public Saddam Hussein had WMD's in Iraq and was ready to push that button to drop a dime on the US at any time. With the backing of the MSM, talking heads (political), celebrity talking heads and a brigade of online trolls-all extolling the virtue of the bush administration and their powers of perception and psychic abilities to know the imminent threat-the US people bought it, gave up many of their constitutional rights, allowed their privacy to be breeched and violated and shouted down anyone who dared to say there are no WMD's in Iraq. The similarities are uncanny. Universities, where freedom of speech used to be encouraged had very vocal republican groups supporting the invasion and shouted down dissenting views. Just like Brown shutting down free speech today. Dr. Wakefield and Jenny McCarthy are the Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame of the Vaccine Wars. Treason was committed by the than vice president by outing an active CIA agent and Joe Biden called him "the most dangerous man on the planet". A form or treason has been committed against the children of the world by Paul Offit saying a child can take up to 10,000 vaccine at one time. Proffit and Cheney have committed crimes against humanity.

The American people need to take some responsibility here. In terms of the health and welfare of their children-they have given their children to the government because they believe the government can protect them. Benjamin Franklin stated:

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

Parents today are no longer capable of stepping outside the box that the US school system has carefully spent decades molding and placing them in as they grew up. Parents spend more time researching their next Iphone, Ipad, new car, reviewing online information on how to take the perfect selfie, how to take videos of every aspect of their lives to "share" online than they have researching vaccines. That is beyond appalling! Medicine is a business and doctors and pediatricians are business people and they are in the business to make money. Vaccines are drugs, commodities that are purchased for use. Vaccines are not FREE. They are paid for by the government and ultimately the taxpayer. Marketing vaccines is just like marketing the next great video game. It's all about the Benjamins.

Fear is the enemy of both sides of the issue. Parents fear their child being infected by a childhood illness that people over the decades has survived for decades. They have been told over and over and over that measles, mumps, whooping cough, chicken pox, the flu and now HPV, meningitis, polio, smallpox etc are “KILLERS” and to protect their child from death they must have this vaccine. Not once but over the course of 18 years a total of 69 does of 16 vaccines. These are all vaccine preventable diseases. There are no vaccine preventable diseases. Vaccines were developed to infect a person with a mild or attenuated form of a virus so the body can build antibody that will kick in and give the person a mild form of the illness or prevent them from being infected. Vaccine can't prevent disease if they are designed to "give" you the illness. Vaccine preventable disease is a lie.

In the last 10 years childhood illnesses have evolved to the level of disease. With the assistance of the MSM stories of how a child died from measles or the story of how a young girl died from chicken pox-years ago surfaced and the Mom regrets not getting her vaccinated because the doctor wouldn't do it and now is a strong advocate for vaccines. What the article left out was the child was born without a spleen making her immunocompromised. But according to the CDC website she could have been vaccinated. The MSM also left out the fact that she had recovered from the chicken pox and died several months later, that the child’s peds refuse to vaccinate her because the side effects of the shot were unknown. The MSM also left out of their story the fact that the Mom could have taken the child to the health dept and requested she be vaccinated. How many health depts turn down vaccinating a child-especially since they get paid by the federal government for doing so.

Stories like this pepper the internet and are pushed by paid for bloggers and trolls. Another one is the mother who had half a dozen children and was not actually an “anti-vaxer” but was suspicious of them but now was supportive of vaccines because her children developed whooping cough. Again, the MSM didn’t report that several of her children were infected with the Pertussis bacteria after others in the family had been vaccinated for whooping cough. Last month a woman had a video online saying she supported vaccines because her child had whooping cough but again, that child had been vaccinated for whooping cough. This week another fantasy story is running a muck among pro-vac sites of a young boy who is infected with chicken pox and the media commenter and trolls are all over this, hoping people read right past the fact that the child had been vaccinated for chicken pox. Being infected by a vaccine strain virus/bacteria is very common to the point that Dr. Gregory Poland of the Mayo clinic says that measles has become an illness of immunized people. We also know that whooping cough is caused by the DPT vaccine. Parents don’t use critical thinking and common sense when they read these articles.

The government is terrified the public will discover their 100 year old con which is why they are diligent deleting pages on websites and compelling various institutions (hospitals) to change their online information. You know the famous St. Jude and John Hopkins Visitor guidelines changes that can be found on wayback engines. Fear in the governments case boils down to a number of things but they all are of equal importance: Loss of- Power,Control, Money, Career Status, and the worldwide knowledge that they (CDC, paul proffit, julie gerberding and company) are False Prophets pushing empty promises. Losing control of the message is a great fear and not tolerated by the power structure. Maintaining control will lead to what some believe is the creation of a one world government run by a handful of corporations. It's already occurred with the media. 6 corporations control the media. The most powerful weapon on the planet is not a nuclear bomb. The most powerful weapon on the planet today as it's always been is -THE CONTROL OF INFORMATION. Against this, a nuke doesn't have a chance.

Louis Conte

As the father of a child with autism who can barely speak, I often find the topic of freedom of speech to bitterly ironic.

Of all the things that autism has taken from my son, the worst is his voice. The simple ability to say, "Dad, I really liked that movie."

I would give anything to know what my son thinks.

Autism Speaks?

No, it does not.

We are confronted at every turn by people and organizations who wish to silence us on issues involving the true increase in autism its' environmental causes.

If we were really on the fringe, we would have a reality TV show about eccentric anti-vaccine people. We would be an entertainment.

However, that is not the case. There are certain people who desperately want us silenced because they fear us. They know that our point - vaccines injury can cause brain damage and brain damage can involve autism - is verified.

Imposition of silence through censorship is an ancient tool that oppressors have used throughout history. It is a form of societal torture to shut down expression of those who want to expose injustice. It's also used to remind those who would listen that they should not.

Like torture, censorship is built on fear. Like torture, it does not work. The truth will get out, one way or another.

Our opponents fear us and they dread the day that they held to account for the Great Poisoning that they have inflicted on our children.

This poisoning is not just inflicted upon our children. It is imposed on our society and our culture. My fear is that if we do not somehow resolve what has happened here in an open forum of justice, the damage to our country will be even worse than than the damage to our children.

Jeff C

Google the Overton window. It describes a range of opinions that society allows to be held/and or discussed, anything outside of the window is considered "beyond the pale". There are certain things that society has collectively and rightly decided fall outside the window for good reasons, usually ugly historical facts (e.g. use of the "N" word). The window serves a valuable purpose.

However, folks pushing an agenda quickly realized that it's a highly effective tactic to advance their agenda by deeming opinions at odds with it as being beyond the pale. By simply bringing up an alternative viewpoint, an individual will automatically be considered crazy, racist, insensitive, boorish, even criminal. So much for free speech.

Now consider those whose livelihood depends on you consuming their product, particularly a product with a track record of safety issues (e.g. pharma). They've been incredibly effective at demonizing those who bring up safety issues be it vaccines, statins, psycotropics, or whatever. The response is always the same, by questioning these products "people will die" (because these products by definition are "life saving") and therefore it must not be allowed. It is outside the window.

None of this is by accident, the pharmaceutical companies have huge advertising departments that specialize in manipulating human emotions and behavior. The good news it that it only works if you don't realize you are being manipulated. Once one recognizes the tactics, it's readily apparent and easily deflected. The problem is when those with authority inflict it on others through force of law.


"The article offers all kinds of remedies such as this: “For example, if governmental health officials publicize false statements linking child vaccines and autism, they could lawfully be censored or fired from their positions. They have no constitutional right to spread false statements antithetical to the mission of their agency or office.”

I smell strategizing. A way to erase the Thompson mess? A warning to other public health employees across this country with crises of conscience and/or disagreement with the party line that free speech from them will not be tolerated? The first step is firing them. The next will be imprisonment.

And the young (Ivy League, no less) think this is all just fine - the way it ought to be. What we should be trying to figure out is how the last two generations (young adults and the bozos guiding them) became so massively screwed up.


I have thought for a very long time - the last 20 years that many young people thinks the freedom of speech is not ideas but worlds only. That is you have the right to do f bombs or profanity when you become a bit emotional.

angus files

Freedom Of Speech is getting harder these days to find.At one time people in the US and UK spoke openly and freely concerning day to day issues, but these days your

a bigot,
a anti,
a slanderer,
a feminist,
a woman/man hater
and the list continues.

George Washington said

"If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

Divide and rule, the greatest psychology tool ever


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