Flashback: Bill O’Brien’s ‘outrage against free speech and personal liberties’

The award for New England’s most egregious “outrage against free speech and personal liberties” goes to… former state House Speaker Bill O’Brien.

For 16 years, Dan Kennedy, assistant professor of journalism at Northeastern University, and Harvey Silverglate, co-founder of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, have called attention to foes of free speech and civil liberties with the Muzzle Awards.

O’Brien was selected to receive one of this year’s awards for his actions as Speaker when he barred Concord Monitor reporters from attending a State House press conference. Kennedy describes the events that led to O’Brien’s Muzzle: 

William O’Brien is not one to brook much in the way of back talk. When a protest broke out in the House gallery during a budget hearing in the spring of 2011, he ordered state police to kick everyone out.

A year later, a fellow Republican legislator became so upset with what he saw as O’Brien’s attempts to silence him that he directed a toxic remark at the Speaker: “Seig Heil.” The legislator was ejected from the chamber and forced to apologize.

It was the Hitler reference that led to O’Brien’s Muzzle. Because Mike Marland, a cartoonist for the Concord Monitor, followed up by depicting O’Brien with a Hitler-like mustache, accompanied by the caption “If the mustache fits …”

O’Brien got his revenge. …