Published in Brian Martin, C. M. Ann Baker, Clyde Manwell and Cedric Pugh (editors), Intellectual Suppression: Australian Case Histories, Analysis and Responses (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1986), pp. 164-181.
In the version below, a few typographical errors in the original have been corrected and a few additional references have been added.
Contents page for the book Intellectual Suppression
Brian Martin's publications on suppression of dissent
Brian Martin's publications
Brian Martin's website
The number of cases of clear or suspected suppression is enormous. The previous chapters have presented a number of cases in some detail, though any one of them could be described at much greater length. To give an idea of the scale and variety of suppression, presented here are some thumbnail sketches.
Because the phenomenon of suppression has not been conceptualised or studied systematically, the available evidence about it is spread far and wide, and difficult to track down. What I have done here is to describe a variety of cases which I or my colleagues have come across in our reading. Non-academic cases are included to show the forms suppression can take in the "free world" and to illustrate the severe consequences that suppression can help to perpetuate, such as exposure of people to toxic chemicals. There are three main criteria for inclusion: first, the suppression or suspected suppression is either major or distinctive in character; second, substantial and accessible documentation is available; third, the case is not described elsewhere in this book.
These criteria, though not rigorously applied, eliminate literally hundreds of cases for which only limited documentation is available, such as in newspaper articles. Even so, due to the large volume of available material, many well-documented suppression cases, including famous cases, are not listed here. The aim here is not to itemise all the most important suppression cases, but rather to give an indication of the variety of material available for the further study of suppression.
Unless otherwise indicated, I have written the sketches presented here. (Two of the sketches were provided by C. M. Ann Baker and Clyde Manwell and edited by me.) Many of the references are ones I have come across or found cited in my reading. Many others have been specifically suggested or provided by a wide range of individuals.
Naturally, the cases here reflect a particular set of interests and reading, and should not be taken as a reliable indication of the actual occurrence of different types or areas of suppression. In particular, only cases from English-speaking countries have been included.
The cases are grouped according to country, and within each country by alphabetical order of the person suppressed or of the author of the account, whichever seemed most appropriate. In only a few non-Australian cases have attempts been made to personally verify the information presented. Only a bare outline of each case is presented, with sources indicated for those who desire more detail.
I am deeply indebted to a large number of people for suggesting references, for providing copies of documents and for offering advice concerning descriptions of cases. Since not all these individuals wish to be mentioned in this regard, reluctantly I have omitted detailed acknowledgements. Needless to say, their contributions towards this compilation have been greatly appreciated. Final responsibility for all the descriptions nevertheless rests with me.
P. L. Bazeley, Director of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (CSL), made statements to the press about the CSL Bill before Parliament. He was suspended and charged with improper conduct in his official capacity. He admitted his guilt and apologised, and was reduced in rank and salary.
Reference: R. S. Parker, "Official neutrality and the right of public comment. 1. The implications of the Bazeley case", Public Administration (Australia), vol. 20, no. 4, December 1961, p. 291-304; "II. The vow of silence", vol. 23, no. 3, September 1964, pp. 193-211.
Les Bowling worked for General Motors - Holden's from 1972 to 1975, when he was dismissed because of his union activities. By court order he was reinstated in 1976, but then dismissed again in 1978. His case illustrates how a large corporation can use the legal system, with its long delays, to dampen shop floor activism by workers. Even with full financial support from legal aid and with a favourable legal decision, little may be gained for the workers through the courts.
Reference: Anthony Regan, "Fighting the company: sacked workers win ... almost", Legal Service Bulletin, vol. 6, no. 2, April 1981, pp. 64-7.
Arthur L. Burns was a professor of political science at the Australian National University, and a prominent and vocal anticommunist. In 1981 ANU Council terminated his appointment, citing medical grounds. Burns asked ANU for the reason, in writing, for his dismissal, but this was refused. Burns then applied to the Federal Court for the reasons to be given under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act. Justice Ellicott, who had been Attorney-General when the Act was introduced in 1977, ruled for Burns, but this was reversed by the Full Federal Court.
References: "The Burns case", Australian Law Journal, vol. 57, no. 4, April 1983, pp. 199-200; William Maley, "The Arthur Burns case", Quadrant, vol. 27, no. 11, November 1983, pp. 18-21; A. L. Burns, letter, Quadrant, vol. 27, no. 12, December 1983, p. 5.
Allan Healy completed his Ph.D. at the Australian National University in 1962. His thesis was a detailed examination of Australian colonial policy in Papua New Guinea, showing many shortcomings. At that time, Australian control over PNG was considered by the Australian government to be vital to Australian security, whereas Healy's thesis presented the case for more rapid political devolution of power to PNG. To gain access to official documents, Healy had to sign forms giving the Department of Territories the right to grant or refuse approval for any publication. Because of the critical nature of the thesis, the Department demanded that the thesis be kept under lock and key at the University, and University officials collaborated in this suppression. Rumours were spread about Healy, who was thereby denied any academic job in the area of his expertise.
Reference: Allan Healy, "Letter from Australia: censorship as a nineteenth century survival", Index on Censorship, vol. 1, no. 3/4, Autumn-Winter 1972, pp. 185-95.
The Human Sciences Program at the Australian National University, an environmentally and humanistically oriented series of undergraduate courses with a holistic perspective, was established in 1973. Opposition to the program was voiced by some leading members of the ANU from the time it was first proposed in 1970, and has continued in spite of one favourable external review of the program and many favourable assessments by students and university colleagues. Staff member Jeremy Evans had an average record of publications and an outstanding record of teaching, yet reappointment and review committees recommended in 1979 against granting him tenure. There were protests from students and staff at the ANU. An appeal committee, with Staff Association representation, finally recommended a further two-year period of contract employment. After a 15-month deliberation during 1983-4, the appropriate committee finally recommended tenure. The program has also been subject to cuts in staff - and to threats of further cuts or amalgamations - in spite of strong student support and only moderate running costs per student.
References: Brian Martin, "The scientific straightjacket: the power structure of science and the suppression of environmental scholarship", Ecologist, vol. 11, no. 1, January-February 1981, pp. 33-43; Ian Hughes, "Environmental education at ANU - a new dark age?", Bogong (Journal of the Canberra and South-East Region Environment Centre), vol. 4, no. 5, November-December 1983, pp. 8-9. [See also "A tenure battle" (chapter 1 of Brian Martin, Suppression Stories, 1997).]
Frank Knopfelmacher was in the Psychology Department at the University of Melbourne when in 1964 he applied for a senior lectureship in political philosophy in the Philosophy Department at the University of Sydney. Knopfelmacher is a Czech Jew whose entire family was killed by the Nazis. Politically he has long considered himself a social democrat. In addition to his scholarly work, Knopfelmacher was well known as a fierce and vocal opponent of Soviet communism. He took strong and strongly worded stands on current affairs in popular journals. He had also raised charges of undue Stalinist influence among academics at the University of Melbourne.
There were three candidates for the philosophy post. Knopfelmacher's application for the job was discussed with great intensity around the University of Sydney for months before the selection committee made its decision, and numerous highly unfavourable allegations were made about Knopfelmacher's character in private conversation. The selection committee for the philosophy position unanimously (with one abstention) recommended Knopfelmacher. But in April 1965 the Professorial Board rejected his appointment outright, in an unprecedented and since unrepeated move. (The more accepted procedure in such rare cases was for the Board to refer the matter back to the selection committee for further inquiry, offering appropriate criticisms.) The Board's decision was influenced by the circulation of one and only one of Knopfelmacher's articles, which was not one of his academic publications, to the members of the Board. The circulation of this article was especially promoted by Professor Ted Christiansen, who was well known to have pro-Soviet views.
After the Board's decision, more than one Sydney University professor attacked Knopfelmacher's character and political views in several letters to newspapers. Later the political philosophy post was readvertised. There were two applicants, of whom Knopfelmacher was one. The other candidate was unsuitable, and this time the selection committee (essentially unchanged from before) voted against Knopfelmacher's appointment. As a result of the second committee's decision, no appointment was made to the post.
References. "The Knopfelmacher case, Australia", Minerva, vol. 3, no. 4, Summer 1965, pp. 538-55; A. K. Stout, "On university appointments: thoughts after Knopfelmacher", Minerva, vol. 4, no. 1, Autumn 1965, pp. 55-72; "The Knopfelmacher case, Australia", Minerva, vol. 4, no. 2, Winter 1966, pp. 287-99; A. J. Dunston, "I had never even heard of Dr K.", Bulletin, vol. 87, 25 December 1965, pp. 27-9; Geoffrey Fairbairn, Revolutionary Warfare and Communist Strategy: The Threat to South-East Asia (London: Faber and Faber, 1968), pp. 43-7.
Roy J. Kriegler has documented the oppressive working and life conditions at the BHP shipyard and steelworks at Whyalla, South Australia. BHP, as the major employer, has been ruthless in exploiting workers in many ways, especially in relation to working conditions. The managerial staff are totally compliant in doing anything to help the company. Suppression of intellectual dissent plays a role in maintaining this situation. For example, when on a rare occasion a Whyalla News journalist went beyond official sources of information, BHP sought his dismissal by exerting influence on the proprietors of the newspaper.
Reference: Roy J. Kriegler, Working for the Company: Work and Control in the Whyalla Shipyard (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1980).
Stuart Macdonald, of the Information Research Unit in the Department of Economics at the University of Queensland, studied the information provided by the CSIRO about its research work, and concentrated on that from the Division of Entomology. He concluded that "the arguments publicly presented for the actual deployment of resources are often weak". He was told by senior personnel at the Division that the draft of his article contained serious errors, and that access to Divisional records to reveal these errors would be granted only if he withdrew the article from publication. He was threatened with legal action by a senior member of CSIRO.
References: Stuart Macdonald, "Faith, hope and disparity: an example of the public justification of public research", Search, vol. 13, nos 11-12, December 1982-January 1983, pp. 290-9; Ronald Strahan, "Stirrers in science", ibid., p. 271; Stuart Macdonald, "Faith, hope and disparity - an apologia to CSIRO", Search, vol. 14, nos 1-2, February-March 1983, pp. 39-41.
George Munster and Richard Walsh in November 1980 published a book entitled Documents on Australian Defence and Foreign Policy 1968-75. The documents reproduced in the book were secret memos, briefings and cables prepared by Australian government bureaucrats concerning such defence and foreign policy issues as Australia's involvement in the Indochina War, US bases in Australia, the decolonisation of Papua New Guinea, and events leading to the Indonesian invasion of East Timor. The Melbourne Age and the Sydney Morning Herald had acquired serialisation rights to the book. On the eve of publication, the federal government served interim injunctions to prevent publication of the book and of excerpts in the newspapers, invoking both the Crimes Act and the Copyright Act. (Quite a few copies of the book and of the newspapers containing the excerpts were sold or distributed before the interim injunction came into effect.) The High Court decided that the Crimes Act did not provide grounds for an injunction in this case but continued the injunctions solely on the grounds that direct and extensive quotation from the documents without permission was a breach of Crown copyright. However, the substance of the documents was later conveyed by means of synopses, short quotations and critical comments when Munster and Walsh published Secrets of State.
Reference: George Munster, Secrets of State: A Detailed Assessment of the Book They Banned (Australia: Walsh & Munster, an imprint of Angus & Robertson Publishers, 1982).
Patrick O'Brien is a senior lecturer in the Politics Department at the University of Western Australian (UWA). In the 1970s he acquired a substantial reputation both as a scholar and as a public commentator in providing a critique of left-wing political thought and action. He has been a frequent contributor to newspapers and radio programs. Often his criticisms have been greatly resented by those attacked, for example when in 1980 O'Brien made pointed comments about the connection between the UWA Guild of Undergraduates and the UWA branch of the Australian Labor Party, and the use of funds by the Guild.
Following a wine and cheese social held by the UWA Politics Club on 25 July 1980, a number of complaints were made to the Vice-Chancellor about O'Brien's alleged behaviour at the social. These allegations were used as a basis for launching a major campaign against O'Brien, which included organising articles in newspapers, the circulation of a defamatory and inaccurate leaflet, the spreading of rumours and harassment of his family, in particular by obscene telephone calls made anonymously. O'Brien apologised in writing to the complainants - whose identities were not revealed to him for many months - for any offence he may have caused to any individual at the wine and cheese social, but the apology was not accepted.
In early 1981 an article by O'Brien in the Times Higher Education Supplement about academic freedom further angered his opponents. Eventually the University brought formal charges in open court against O'Brien for violations of UWA bylaws. In October 1981 the magistrate found him not guilty of striking a student, the only serious charge against him. In dismissing the charge the magistrate, Sir Clifford Grant, saw fit to say: "I was not impressed by the fifth prosecution witness ... Clearly he was incensed by the critical nature of the defendant's radio talks and articles, culminating in an argument which was heated on both sides ... " He added that the bulk of the accuser's evidence was either "fantasy or imagination".
O'Brien was found guilty of using offensive language and urinating behind a pillar on a secluded part of a verandah after dark - an act which O'Brien openly and unashamedly admitted and which was only witnessed by two male colleagues from a distance. These charges were dismissed. Legal counsel on both sides were amazed that such nonsense was brought before the court. Even the magistrate opined that "If every person who behaved in a ribald manner or with less than propriety at a private party were to be charged before the courts, I fear that even the ranks of the legal profession could be so depleted that there would be insufficient counsel left to represent them". Moreover, a double standard was apparent in the UWA administration's lack of action over abusive and offensive language in student publications and in the concerted and scurrilous attacks against O'Brien.
When the court case was reported to the UWA Senate, it was implied that prosecution witnesses had not given coloured evidence, and that it was O'Brien who had induced the University to pursue him in court. These and other statements to the Senate - considered by many to be untrue and in conflict with the findings of the court - have never been corrected, although three members of the Senate requested that an apology be made to O'Brien.
References: Patrick O'Brien, "Fabian chickens come home to roost", Times Higher Education Supplement, 6 March 1981, p. 11; Roger Gale, "Patrick O'Brien, victim", Quadrant, vol. 25, no. 5, May 1981, pp. 11-13; "University of Western Australia misled", Facts (National Civic Council), March 1982, pp. 7, 10-14.
Michael Spautz was a tenured senior lecturer in the Department of Commerce at the University of Newcastle. In 1978 he began questioning the validity and scholarly nature of the Ph.D. thesis of Professor Alan J. Williams, another member of the same department. Dr Spautz alleged that Professor Williams's thesis was based on inverted causality and that it contained spurious statistics and plagiarised passages. Dr Spautz also questioned the legitimacy of Professor Williams's new role as Head of the Management Section in the department. Receiving no response to his criticisms that he felt was satisfactory, Dr Spautz gradually escalated the criticisms into a major campaign. A university committee was established in 1979 and another in 1980 to inquire into the problem. The committees focused on the actions of Dr Spautz rather than on the substance of his allegations, which were never examined more than cursorily. After the report of the second committee, University Council dismissed Dr Spautz from his position, without making formal charges of misconduct or providing him a full and effective opportunity to defend himself against such charges.
Following his dismissal, Dr Spautz launched several court actions alleging wrongful dismissal and alleging that various university officials had criminally defamed him. When some of his actions were lost and costs awarded against him, Dr Spautz refused to pay and as a result began serving a 200-day prison sentence. But after 56 days in prison he was released after a judge ruled that he had been illegally imprisoned.
References: Brian Martin, "Disruption and due process: the dismissal of Dr Spautz from the University of Newcastle", Vestes, vol. 26, no. 1, 1983, pp. 3-9; G. C. Curthoys et al. (Executive of the University of Newcastle Staff Association), "Report of the Executive to the members of the Staff Association on the recent dismissal of a tenured member of the academic staff of the University", University of Newcastle Staff Association, 11 July 1980; Michael Spautz, numerous memos under the title In Vita Veritas, available from the author at 502/362 Glebe Road, Hamilton, NSW 2303; Brian Martin, "Plagiarism and responsibility", Journal of Tertiary Educational Administration, vol. 6, no. 2, October 1984, pp. 183-90.
Struan Sutherland is Australia's leading snake venom expert. Employed at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, he has suffered harassment from administrators since 1974, mainly due to petty-minded jealousy over his successes. Actions against him have included cutting of staff, refusing to pay for examination fees, exclusion from meetings and cancelling of projects.
References: Deborah Smith and Bruce Hanford, "A research career is not meant to be easy", National Times, 17-23 February 1980, p. 52; Mark Plummer, "Top scientist gagged", Commonwealth Professional, no. 278, March 1980, pp. 3-5; Robert Drewe, "How bureaucratic venom threatens your life", Bulletin, vol. 101, 12 January 1982, pp. 18-24; Adrian McGregor, "Triumph and tragedy of the spider man", Weekend Australian, 27-8 March 1982, p. Magazine 3; Adrian McGregor, "A great day of victory", Weekend Australian, 3-4 April 1982, p. Magazine 8.
V. G. Venturini was appointed a commissioner on the Trade Practices Commission in February 1975. Venturini found that the Commission was taking no action against several well-documented violations of the Trade Practices Act, such as the cartel in zinc. He made biting criticisms of the Commission's lack of action in this and other areas, and many of his criticisms received wide publicity in the mass media. Instead of launching an investigation into the Commission's failings, the government in June 1977 restructured the Commission. All the commissioners were reappointed except for Venturini. In effect he was sacked.
Reference: V. G. Venturini, The Administration of the Murphy Trade Practices Act. Malpractice: Antitrust as an Australian Poshlost (Sydney: Non Mollare, 1980), especially pp. 268, 290-2.
Marlene Dixon in the early 1970s taught in the sociology department at McGill University. An attempt was made to deny her reappointment, and also that of Pauline Vaillancourt, in the political science department, due to their participation in radical activities and their Marxist views. The attempt to deny reappointment failed: Dixon's and Vaillancourt's academic records were too good, and they were able to mobilise external pressure from the larger academic community and from the general public against what was clearly a politically inspired action. After their reappointment, a campaign of harassment was waged against Dixon, Vaillancourt and other radical scholars including eminent sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein. Every minor mistake they made was blown out of proportion, their students were harassed, their suggestions were blocked, and their efforts towards the smallest change were sabotaged. The harassment was eventually successful, and Dixon, Vaillancourt and Wallerstein all left McGill.
Reference: Marlene Dixon, Things Which Are Done in Secret (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1976).
Wilson Bryan Key has studied and written popular accounts of the use of subliminal messages in advertisements. Many complaints from advertising companies and other pressures effectively harassed Key out of the University of Western Ontario.
Reference: Wilson Bryan Key, The Clam-plate Orgy and other Subliminals the Media Use to Manipulate Your Behavior (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1980), pp. 112 ff.
David W. Livingstone and Richard V. Mason have documented the way in which informal peer pressure in a formally interdisciplinary environmental studies centre was focused against scientists who pursued research areas outside the mainstream, discipline-based scientific perspectives. Allocations of departmental resources were made selectively to those with the "correct" perspectives.
Reference: David W. Livingstone and Richard V. Mason, "Ecological crisis and the autonomy of science in capitalist society: a Canadian case study", Alternatives, vol. 8, no. 1, Winter 1978, pp. 3-10, 32.
David Mandel in 1980 applied for a permanent appointment in the Department of Political Science at McGill University. The departmental appointments committee recommended Mandel, but this was rejected by a vote of the department meeting. Mandel complained about the rejection of his application, alleging political bias against his Marxist orientation, his opposition to Israeli government policies, and his active support of the strike by maintenance staff at McGill, and also alleging procedural defects. A fact-finding committee of the Canadian Association of University Teachers found that Mandel had been unfairly treated, and also made important recommendations concerning procedures for academic appointments. CAUT's Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee recommended that CAUT and McGill establish a joint committee of inquiry, but McGill refused to do this. The detailed public documentation on this case illustrates the extreme difficulty of demonstrating suppression in appointments under present rules and procedures.
Reference: Dale Gibson, Andre Cote and J. K. Johnstone (CAUT Fact-Finding Committee on Discrimination or Unfair Hiring Practices in Making University Appointments), "Report"; Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee, "Report on the Mandel Case and the Fact-Finding Committee Report"; and responses, CAUT Bulletin, April 1984, pp. 49-58.
Anthony Arblaster, in presenting the case for academic freedom, has described many cases and types of suppression, including attacks on students (especially radicals), victimisation, attacks on teachers, invoking of "morality" for suppression, and bias in appointments. Arblaster places suppression in the context of political power structures: industry, the state, and academic establishments. He states: "the most direct attacks on academic freedom have come from the academic authorities themselves, and it is their gross and arbitrary power which continues to constitute the most serious threat to educational freedom".
Reference: Anthony Arblaster, Academic Freedom (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974), quote from p. 94.
John Baldwin and Michael McConville are two sociologists at the University of Birmingham whose book Negotiated Justice: Pressures to Plead Guilty was published in 1977. A rare example of critical research on the activities of the legal profession, the book caused controversy, especially from an enraged legal establishment. The Chairman of the Bar reportedly attempted to stop publication of the book and the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham was persuaded to form an investigating committee, supposedly to determine the academic merits of their study. Although some shortcomings in statistical technique were found in the study, the basic discovery, that plea bargaining was commonly used by the English legal profession and the courts, often with behind-the-scenes negotiations unknown to the defendants, was not refuted.
References: John Baldwin and Michael McConville, Negotiated Justice: Pressures to Plead Guilty (London: Martin Robertson, 1977); A. P. Sealy and G. Gaskell, "'Negotiated justice': the dynamics of credibility", Bulletin of the British Psychological Society, vol. 31, 1978, pp. 261-4 (contributed by C. M. Ann Baker and Clyde Manwell).
Roland Chaplain started work in 1964 at Edgbaston Observatory, which came under the control of Birmingham University. He developed plans for a 24-hour warning service to local clients such as firms, highways departments, market gardeners and public utilities, relying on knowledge of past local weather patterns and information from numerous amateur weather observers. In 1969 Chaplain was sacked from his post. There are several factors behind the dismissal and the collapse of the local forecasting scheme.
The available documents suggest that due process was denied to Chaplain in his appeal against his dismissal.
Reference: C. M. Ann Baker, Clyde Manwell and Brian Martin, "The University of Birmingham versus Roland Chaplain: academic justice, community service and the professionalisation syndrome", unpublished paper, 1982.
Mike Cooley, an engineer working for Lucas Aerospace, was a leading figure in the Lucas Aerospace Combine Shop Stewards' Committee during the period when it developed an alternative corporate plan for switching some of Lucas's production from aerospace components to heat pumps, kidney machines and other socially useful products. In 1981 Cooley was sacked. There was very strong local and international union support for his reinstatement, but individual unions failed to coordinate strike action effectively to this end and the campaign for reinstatement failed.
Reference: Hilary Wainwright and Dave Elliott, The Lucas Plan: A New Trade Unionism in the Making? (London: Allison and Busby, 1982), pp. 207-12.
Rodney Fordham, John Taylor, Ross Hesketh and Trevor Brown are scientists who worked in the British nuclear power program. Each of them expressed doubts about some aspect of nuclear safety, initially through normal internal procedural channels. When they made their criticisms public, or threatened to do so, the nuclear industry attacked them in various ways, such as by criticism of their work, transferral or dismissal.
Reference: Rob Edwards, "A new kind of nuclear victim", New Statesman, 22 July 1983, pp. 8-10.
David Triesman has analysed the issues underlying the 1973-4 dispute between the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs and the London University Institute of Psychiatry focusing on differences concerning scientific theory and method, how these differences relate to different political understandings of society, and how these link with industrial relations.
Reference: David Triesman, "The Institute of Psychiatry sackings", Radical Science Journal, no. 5, 1977, pp. 9-36.
Peter Watkins directed the film The War Game, which portrays the likely physical and political consequences of a nuclear attack on Britain. The film was made for the British Broadcasting Corporation in 1965, but the BBC has refused ever since to allow the film's screening on television anywhere in the world. An experienced film director, Watkins has met stiff opposition in his further efforts to treat the issues of nuclear war and nuclear power on film. Watkins is also quite concerned about the way in which the visual media use audiovisual systems of meaning to induce confusion and passivity in viewers, especially in treating issues relating to nuclear war.
Reference: Peter Watkins, "The nuclear war film", Thesis Eleven, nos 5/6, 1982, pp. 125-38.
Howard M. Bahr, through a study of official statistics of the American Association of University Professors and interviews with social scientists at universities, concluded among other things that "There are approximately one hundred personally perceived violations of academic freedom for every officially reported violation".
Reference: Howard M. Bahr, "Violations of academic freedom: official statistics and personal reports", Social Problems, vol. 14, no. 3, 1967, pp. 310-20.
Morris H. Baslow, a marine biologist, worked for a company of consulting engineers who were studying the effect of thermal effluents from Consolidated Edison power plants on marine life. Baslow questioned the lack of reporting of larvae and fish growth at higher than optimal temperatures to the Environmental Protection Agency. He was fired. Although protected by whistleblower legislation, it took a year of litigation before a settlement was reached.
Reference: Constance Holden, "Scientist with unpopular data loses job", Science, vol. 210, 14 November 1980, pp. 749-50.
Jim Benson, in 1976 an employee in the Solar Division of the Energy Research and Development Administration, had contracted for the writing of a study on energy scenarios for the US. The resulting report pointed out the large economic and environmental costs of a high-energy future based on coal and nuclear power, and presented the advantages of a lower energy solar-based future. Benson was fired, and the report rewritten to remove the support for a solar future.
Reference: Ray Reece, The Sun Betrayed: A Report on the Corporate Seizure of U.S. Solar Energy Development (Boston: South End Press, 1979), pp. 107-12.
Tom Brokaw, a news commentator for the National Broadcasting Commission, gave a wide-ranging interview to the magazine Mother Jones, published in April 1983, in which he presented some views on politics and economics which were critical of the powers that be. As a result of the interview, many attacks were made on Brokaw by newspaper commentators and considerable pressure was put on Brokaw's boss.
Reference: Deidre English, "Brokaw: seen but not heard?", Mother Jones, vol. 8, no. 6, July 1983, p. 5.
The Central Intelligence Agency has on a number of occasions approached major New York publishing houses to try to suppress or alter books about the CIA. (The CIA also had by 1967 produced, sponsored or subsidised over one thousand books in the US and elsewhere.)
Reference: David Wise, The American Police State: The Government Against the People (New York: Random House, 1976).
Rosemary Chalk and Frank von Hippel, in the course of making some recommendations about protection of individuals who speak out in the public interest, describe several cases of suppression.
Reference: Rosemary Chalk and Frank von Hippel, "Due process for dissenting whistleblowers", Technology Review, vol. 81, no. 7, June/July 1979, pp. 49-55.
J. David Colfax was denied tenure at Washington University because of political activities. In an article about suppression of radicals in academia in the early 1970s, he notes that an informal survey he conducted revealed several dozen cases of suppression besides the more well-known instances, and that in no case was the professional competence of the person suppressed seriously questioned.
Reference: J. David Colfax, "Repression and academic radicalism", New Politics, vol. 10, no. 3, Spring 1973, pp. 14-27.
Hugh DeWitt works at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, near San Francisco, which designs nuclear weapons. DeWitt is a theoretical physicist, one of the few at the lab not directly involved with weapons work. Over the years he has spoken out frequently and critically about the role of the lab in the nuclear arms race. In 1979 he served as an expert witness for the Progressive magazine; the Progressive had been accused by the US Government of revealing secrets of hydrogen bombs. As a result, the lab imposed sanctions on DeWitt. A settlement was reached in October 1980 in which a warning notice was removed from DeWitt's personal file.
References: John Walsh, "Progressive case fallout has a long half-life", Science, vol. 210, 24 October 1980, pp. 410-11; Marjorie Sun, "DeWitt, Livermore Lab patch up over Progressive", Science, vol. 210, 14 November 1980, p. 747; Hugh E. DeWitt, "The nuclear arms race seen from within an American weapons laboratory", Science and Public Policy, vol. 9, no. 2, April 1982, pp. 58-63.
Marlene Dixon has described the way the ideas of "professionalism" and "academic standards" have been used to suppress dissenting academics and ensure ideological homogeneity in North American social sciences.
Reference: Marlene Dixon, "Professionalism in the social sciences: institutionalized repression," Sociological Inquiry, vol. 46, nos 3-4, 1976, pp. 251-62.
Edith Efron wrote a book, The News Twisters, published in 1971, which presented an analysis of US network television coverage of various topics in 1968 in which she found massive anti-Nixon bias, anti-Vietnam War bias, anti-"white middle class" bias, pro-"black militants" bias, and virtually no treatment of the Viet Cong or violent radicals. Richard Salant, News President of Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), organised a campaign to discredit The News Twisters by making misleading associations and organising academic refutations.
References: Edith Efron, The News Twisters (Los Angeles; Nash Publishing, 1971); Edith Efron with the assistance of Clytia Chambers, How CBS Tried to Kill a Book (Los Angeles: Nash Publishing, 1972).
Samuel S. Epstein has documented the role of industry in promoting production practices in the face of evidence of their role in causing or promoting cancer. Scientists who have defended asbestos, certain pesticides, and other cancerous substances have received grants, consultancies, directorships and jobs. Furthermore, grossly inadequate or fraudulent research which benefits industry is frequently encountered. Those who have exposed the dangers have often been suppressed: "Constraints on data, from gross inadequacy, biased interpretation, manipulation, suppression and outright destruction, are commonplace, especially when profitable products or processes are involved".
References: Samuel S. Epstein, The Politics of Cancer (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1978), quote from p. 300; Samuel S. Epstein, "Polluted data", The Sciences (New York Academy of Sciences), July/August 1978, pp. 16-21.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation's Cointelpro program was designed to suppress and repress political dissent, especially by black activists, anti-war activists and left-wing activists. Methods used included:
Nearly half of FBI documents stolen from the Media, Pennsylvania FBI office were devoted to political surveillance, almost entirely of liberal or left groups.
References: Nelson Blackstock, Cointelpro: The FBI's Secret War on Political Freedom (New York: Vintage, 1976); Paul Cowan, Nick Egleson and Nat Hentoff, with Barbara Herbert and Robert Wall, State Secrets: Police Surveillance in America (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1974).
A. Ernest Fitzgerald went to work for the Pentagon as a cost control expert, and soon found that wasteful procedures were standard policy, that cost overruns were justified by after-the-fact accounting procedures, and that enormous pressures were brought to bear against those opposing or exposing the system. After Fitzgerald gave testimony to a congressional committee about cost overruns on the C-5A transport aircraft in 1969, he was vilified by the Air Force and then sacked. In his account of his experiences, he also mentions about 10 other cases in which individuals who questioned military policies or procurements were reprimanded, isolated, demoted, sacked, blacklisted or declared crazy.
Reference: A. Ernest Fitzgerald, The High Priests of Waste (New York: W. W. Norton, 1972).
Leslie J. Freeman has interviewed a number of insiders from the nuclear industry, most of whom have been suppressed. For example:
Reference: Leslie J. Freeman, Nuclear Witnesses: Insiders Speak Out (New York: W. W. Norton, 1981).
Robert Justin Goldstein has massively documented political repression and suppression of dissident ideas and groups - especially labour and radical political groups which pose threats to elites - in a century of US history. Goldstein says: "The holders of certain ideas in the United States have been systematically and gravely discriminated against and subjected to extraordinary treatment by governmental authorities, such as physical assaults, denials of freedom of speech and assembly, political deportations and firings, dubious and discriminatory arrests, intense police surveillance, and illegal burglaries, wiretaps and interception of mail." Goldstein shows that political repression has helped destroy radical labour and political movements, helped prevent the US labour movement from obtaining major power until the 1930s, and helped discourage the exercise of political freedoms.
Reference: Robert Justin Goldstein, Political Repression in Modern America from 1870 to the Present (Cambridge, Mass.: Schenkman, 1978), quote from p. ix.
Frank Graham, Jr. has documented the extremely hostile response of the chemical and pesticide industry and subservient university scientists to Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and to others who spoke out about pesticides. Graham mentions, among other cases:
Reference: Frank Graham, Jr., Since Silent Spring (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1970).
Carol S. Gruber has described the response of US universities to the First World War. The academic community uncritically rallied in support of war and the state. There was little tolerance of those who doubted the morality of the US cause. Many of those who were vocal in dissent were suppressed: there were many sackings and contract non-renewals. Gruber describes in detail the cases of two dissidents, political scientist William A. Schaper and psychologist James M. Cattell. A great many scholars who held dissenting views remained silent throughout the war. In contrast to those suppressed, those who promoted the war - for example by producing propaganda for the government - were unaffected in their later careers.
Reference: Carol S. Gruber, Mars and Minerva: World War I and the Uses of the Higher Learning in America (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1975).
Richard Harris has provided extremely detailed accounts of three cases involving the Bill of Rights, each of which involved extensive legal challenges.
Harris concludes that the freedoms of the Bill of Rights have seldom been upheld, and that those who pursue their rights at great self-sacrifice are the ones who guarantee them for everyone else.
Reference: Richard Harris, Freedom Spent (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1976).
Holger Hjortsvang, Max Blankenzee and Robert Bruder were engineers working for the Bay Area Rapid Transit System (BART) in the San Francisco region. They voiced technical criticisms of BART and consequently were fired in 1972.
References: Robert M. Anderson, Robert Perrucci, Dan E. Schendel and Leon E. Trachtman, Divided Loyalties: Whistleblowing at BART (West Lafayette: Purdue University, 1980); Robert Perrucci, Robert M. Anderson, Dan E. Schendel and Leon E. Trachtman, "Whistle-blowing: professionals' resistance to organizational authority", Social Problems, vol. 28, no. 2, December 1980, pp. 149-64.
David Horowitz has exposed the role of foundations in propping up academic programs to serve US foreign policy, and has also exposed the close links between the CIA, academic programs and university heads, and the government. He describes the squashing of the prestigious and unique Institute of Hispanic American and Luso-Brazilian Studies at Stanford: the Institute's head, Ronald Hilton, resigned after all Ph.D. candidates were withdrawn by the university without discussion or consultation.
Reference: David Horowitz, "Sinews of empire", Ramparts, vol. 8, October 1969, pp. 32-42.
Peter Infante, a scientist at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, routinely argued that the chemical formaldehyde is a potential cause of cancer. After pressure from the Formaldehyde Institute on OSHA, Infante was given notice he was to be fired.
Reference: Marjorie Sun, "A firing over formaldehyde", Science, vol. 213, 7 August 1981, pp. 630-1.
Lionel S. Lewis analysed all contested dismissals reported in the American Association of University Professors Bulletin between 1916 and 1970, and found that "in only 13 of the 217 dismissal cases was there even a suggestion of incompetence in either their teaching or research". Before 1945, financial and other internal pressures were the main reason for dismissal. From 1945 to 1962, external coercion was more prominent. From 1963 to 1970, pressure from university administrations to get rid of ideological embarrassments played a greater role.
References: Lionel S. Lewis, "Academic freedom cases and their disposition", Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, vol. 4, no. 6, July/August 1972, pp. 8, 77-8. See also Lionel S. Lewis, Scaling the Ivory Tower: Merit and its Limits in Academic Careers (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975).
Michael Miles has described the political dynamics of the suppression of radical university faculty in the early 1970s. The federal government encouraged local initiative by university administrations. Miles gives several examples of left-wing staff who were not granted tenure or, especially when they were involved in "disruptive" actions such as rallies, were dismissed. Student newspapers were censored, and injunctions used to provide summary justice against student militants. Campus disciplinary procedures were modernised by liberalising the forms of due process while strengthening the content of the rules. As a result, protection for left-wing faculty came more from courts than from other faculty or administrations.
Reference: Michael Miles, "The triumph of reaction", Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, vol. 4, Winter 1972-3, pp. 30-6.
Ralph W. Moss gives many examples of how the "cancer establishment" in the United States persists with so-called "proven" methods, namely surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, and uses all sorts of methods to oppose so-called "unproven" methods. He describes the problems faced in studying and promoting anticancer approaches based on Coley's toxins, laetrile, hydrazine sulfate, vitamin C and other nutritional approaches, Burton's immunological method and Livingston's theory of the cancer microbe. Methods used to suppress criticisms of the orthodox methods and to suppress alternative methods include:
Those most often responsible for such suppression often have direct ties with corporations producing cancer-causing environmental chemicals (see especially pp. 67, 228-9, 270, 293-301). The alternative methods are unwelcome to the "cancer establishment" either because they are new, because they use a preventive approach, because they contradict cancer paradigms, or because they use cheap and safe (and unpatentable) chemicals.
Reference: Ralph W. Moss, The Cancer Syndrome (New York: Grove Press, 1980).
Ralph Nader, Peter Petkas and Kate Blackwell edited the account of a 1971 conference on professional responsibility, in which they present 10 major case studies, and 20 shorter studies, of individual "whistle-blowers": people who have spoken out about some hazard or other issue of concern to the general public, and who have been victimised as a result. For example:
Reference: Ralph Nader, Peter J. Petkas and Kate Blackwell (editors), Whistle Blowing: The Report of the Conference on Professional Responsibility (New York: Grossman, 1972).
Bertell Ollman, a prominent Marxist scholar, was offered the post of Chairman of the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland in 1978. He was unanimously supported by the 10-member faculty search committee out of 100 candidates for the post. After many Maryland state legislators and several syndicated newspaper columnists protested against the appointment because of Ollman's Marxist views, the President of the University in an unprecedented move rejected the appointment. Ollman brought a civil suit against the University of Maryland over the President's decision. In spite of extensive evidence that political pressure had played a key role in blocking the appointment, the judge ruled against Ollman in 1981.
References: R. M. Frumkin, "Bertell Ollman's struggle", Zedek, vol. 1, nos 3-4, May-August 1981, pp. 46-53; "The case of Bertell Ollman", Critique, no. 14, 1981, pp. 109-20; Bertell Ollman, Class Struggle is the Name of the Game: True Confessions of a Marxist Businessman (New York: William Morrow, 1983).
J. Robert Oppenheimer was a theoretical physicist who during the Second World War directed the Los Alamos laboratory in the development of the first nuclear bomb. After the war he continued to be involved with development of nuclear weapons. But in 1953 he was accused of being associated with communists in the past and of opposing the development of the hydrogen bomb. A security hearing found him not guilty of treason but ruled for the withdrawal of his security clearance. Many leading scientists came to his defence after his trial, and his case became perhaps the best known example of the victimisation of intellectuals in the recent history of English-speaking countries. (Indeed, the Western scientific establishment has virtually canonised Oppenheimer - who suffered no threats to either his employment or his research - while ignoring the plight of thousands of other more deserving cases, such as Haakon Chevalier, who lost his job as a result of false testimony from Oppenheimer.)
Recent revelations of importance are the fact that the FBI bugged pre-trial conversations between Oppenheimer and his lawyers and that the Nobel prize-winning physicist Hans Bethe claims that Edward Teller's technical mistakes, rather than Oppenheimer's opposition, are what hindered work on the hydrogen bomb. John Ziman ably sums up the case itself:
The charges were trumped up, as a manoeuvre to get rid of him, in the unscrupulous manner of political life at the top ... nothing more than a dirty, rotten bit of political trickery, activated by malice and vindictiveness, but without much influence on the actual course of events, for he was not, in fact, standing in the way of some great change of policy, and could have been eased out or bypassed without all the drama.
References: P. M. Stern, The Oppenheimer Case: Security on Trial (New York: Harper and Row, 1969); D. J. Kevles, The Physicists: The History of a Scientific Community in Modern America (New York: Knopf, 1978); A. K. Smith and C. Weiner (editors), Robert Oppenheimer: Letters and Recollections (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1976); Herbert York, The Advisors: Oppenheimer, Teller and the Superbomb (San Francisco: W. H. Freeman, 1976); D. Shapley, "Oppenheimer case boils up again", Nature, vol. 296, 1982, p. 695; W. J. Broad, "Rewriting the history of the H-bomb", Science, vol. 218, 1982, pp. 769-72; John Ziman, The Force of Knowledge: The Scientific Dimension of Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976), quote from pp. 144-5 (contributed by C. M. Ann Baker and Clyde Manwell).
Michael Parenti, a political scientist, worked at the University of Illinois in 1970. He was active politically from a viewpoint that was critical of established institutions, and for example spoke at rallies. At the peak of protest against the invasion of Cambodia and other crimes, a student strike was held. In one incident during this time, Parenti was beaten by police, and later judged guilty of aggravated battery in spite of six witnesses who claimed it was Parenti who was attacked. He was staked out by police for weeks. The University administration gave no support to staff and students who were attacked and wrongly charged. Instead, attempts were made to get rid of "radicals" on campus. Philip Meranto, who had been assured of tenure, and who did nothing more than interpose his body between Parenti and police blows, found his position threatened. Graduate students lost their fellowships. Academics who voiced any support for student activism were routinely rejected when making job applications. The university put material about Parenti's activities in his file, which was to be made available to other prospective employers.
Reference: Michael Parenti, "Repression in academia: a report from the field", Politics and Society, vol. 1, no. 4, August 1971, pp. 527-37.
Charles Peters and Taylor Branch have written and collected many articles about people who have exposed corruption in industry or government, many of whom have been fired, smeared, or otherwise suppressed. Those who dissent in the public interest often have trouble later in gaining employment, because employers demand loyalty: the whistle-blower might do it again. Some of the cases presented by Peters and Branch involve:
Reference: Charles Peters and Taylor Branch (writers and editors), Blowing the Whistle: Dissent in the Public Interest (New York: Praeger, 1972).
Geoffrey Rips has documented the extensive campaign against the US independent press in the late 1960s and early 1970s carried out by police, the military, and government intelligence agencies. Measures taken included:
Reference: Geoffrey Rips, The Campaign Against the Underground Press (with contributions by Allen Ginsberg, Aryeh Neier, Todd Gitlin and Angus Mackenzie, edited by Anne Janowitz and Nancy J. Peters) (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1981).
Herman and Julia R. Schwendinger have documented the suppression of many important social scientists in the formative years of North American sociology. For example:
Concerning the importance of suppression in the development of sociology in North America, the Schwendingers say: "Political repression, for example, will be regarded as the primary factor in the maintenance of liberal hegemony within academic institutions in the United States. Liberal scholarship never would have dominated the field of sociology, then or now, in the absence of politically repressive conditions."
Reference: Herman and Julia R. Schwendinger, The Sociologists of the Chair: A Radical Analysis of the Formative Years of North American Sociology (1883-1922) (New York: Basic Books, 1974), quote from p. xxiv.
Rachel Scott has documented the pressures exerted by industry on their own and outside scientists to come up with results favourable to profits. Established scientists who take pro-industry positions on issues such as the effects of asbestos are respected even if they make outrageous statements. The choice of which work to publish may be dictated by what is useful to industry.
Reference: Rachel Scott, Muscle and Blood (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1974), especially pages 174-203.
Karen Silkwood was a laboratory analyst at a plutonium plant in Oklahoma run by Kerr-McGee Nuclear Corporation. In 1974 she became concerned about health and safety at the plant. In July that year she was contaminated by plutonium. Shortly afterwards she became a member of the bargaining committee for the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, assigned to health and safety. She began collecting information on safety violations and on the falsifying of quality-control records on fuel rods. In early November she was again contaminated by plutonium. On 13 November she was killed while driving to deliver documents about falsifying records to a reporter for the New York Times. Her documents were not found.
Reference: Richard Rashke, The Killing of Karen Silkwood (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1981).
Robert van den Bosch, in his account of the hazards of pesticides and how pesticide companies promote dependence on their products, describes about a dozen cases of suppression of scientists, including himself, who had done research or made statements critical of pesticides. Attacks have included pressure exerted through university administrations, criticisms in newspapers and farm magazines, loss of jobs and funds, and censorship of publications. Van den Bosch describes how the pesticide companies exert pressure through university administrations, by threats of withdrawing grants, by threatening to withdraw advertising from magazines, and by providing to sympathetic researchers grants, gifts and travel funds.
Reference: Robert van den Bosch, The Pesticide Conspiracy (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1978).
Deena Weinstein has conceptualised the phenomenon of "bureaucratic opposition": opposition movements within bureaucracies. Bureaucracies themselves are conceptualised by Weinstein as authoritarian political systems. Suppression of intellectual dissent is one way in which budding or established bureaucratic oppositions are attacked. Weinstein gives many examples of bureaucratic oppositions and of their two basic methods, informing and direct action, and of the different types of reprisals from bureaucratic elites.
References: Deena Weinstein, Bureaucratic Opposition: Challenging Abuses at the Workplace (New York: Pergamon Press, 1979); Deena Weinstein, "Bureaucratic opposition: the challenge to authoritarian abuses at the workplace", Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory, vol. 1, no. 2, Spring-Summer 1977, pp. 31-46.
Alan Wolfe has documented for the United States the use of state power to destroy organisations threatening the power of elites, and the role of the ideological manipulation to win people's support for the capitalist system. Wolfe presents both a history of state repression and suppression and also an analysis of these as part of the democratic state and its ideology.
Reference: Alan Wolfe, The Seamy Side of Democracy: Repression in America (New York: David McKay, 1973).
Zedek is the journal of the Social Activist Professors Defense Foundation (19329 Monte Vista Drive, Detroit MI 48221, USA). It began publication in 1980, and has included many articles and news reports on suppression of US academics, especially dismissals and denials of tenure to professors who have taken outspoken radical stands on social issues. Also included is useful material on developing campaigns to oppose suppression. The following cases are among the many described in Zedek: