Reactions to Sept. 11 featured
in annual Muzzle Awards
the 11th straight year, U.Va.s Thomas
Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression has
bestowed a dubious distinction on those whom it deems have
forgotten Jeffersons warning that freedom of expression
cannot be limited without being lost.
1991, the center has awarded Jefferson Muzzles to
some 90 people and organizations, including two U.S. presidents,
three U.S. senators, the U.S. Congress (twice), the national conventions
of the two major American political parties, two governors, two
state legislatures, two mayors, 22 public school principals and
school boards, seven judges, five prosecutors, seven law enforcement
agencies, and a host of other public and private groups and individuals.
was not a good year for free speech, said center director
Robert M. ONeil, a law professor and First Amendment expert.
The tragic events of Sept. 11 created new pressures on free
expression and have also made it harder to arouse public concern
about those pressures.
Defense Department and Secretary Rumsfeld were awarded a Muzzle
for curbing media coverage of troops to an unprecedented
degree in Afghanistan. The center also gave a Muzzle to
hecklers who made it impossible for a California university graduation
speaker to finish her speech because she asked the audience to
consider the degree to which our civil liberties should be compromised
in the name of security.
of the people and groups we cite have the best of intentions,
he said. They honestly believe that some higher value or
interest justifies inhibiting speech. We have the unhappy task
of telling them why we feel they are wrong and why we believe
Mr. Jefferson would also take them to task, ONeil
centers board of trustees selects the recipients from what
ONeil called a distressingly large number of candidates.
years other winners (and the centers rationale for
their selection) are:
The Kettle Moraine (Wisc.) School District, for refusing
to permit a second-grade student to distribute Valentines
Day cards that contained religious messages while allowing all
sorts of other non-religious Valentines Day cards to be
exchanged among students.
The New York Police Department Intelligence Divisions Threat
Assessment Unit, for arresting a city employee because he wrote
a letter accusing the Staten Island borough president of being
The coalition of Brown University (R.I.) students who stole 4,000
copies of The Brown Daily Herald, for stealing nearly the entire
press run of a single issue of the universitys student newspaper
from boxes around the campus because the issue contained a full-page
paid ad that the coalition believed was racist, and because the
paper allegedly provided inadequate coverage of racial and ethnic
issues on campus.
The administration of Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical
School, Fitchburg, Mass., for suspending five students for expressing
racist views in response to a survey seeking their personal opinions
of the school and its student body, despite assuring that the
responses would remain confidential.
Dacula (Ga.) High School principal Donald Nutt, for canceling
a school theatrical production of John Steinbecks Of Mice
and Men just two days before its scheduled opening because of
the plays profanity and racially charged language.
Kanawha County (W.Va.) Board of Education and Sissonville High
School principal Forrest Mann, for refusing to allow a 15-year-old
student to form a club opposed to the United States war in Afghanistan.
The Hamilton County (Ind.) prosecutors office, for bringing
criminal charges against a man for violating a clearly unconstitutional
state law prohibiting flag desecration.