Dangerous Dan Thoughts and musings on the world

4/7/2005

Barbarians Manning the Gate

Filed under: Education,Politics,Society,World — Dangerous Dan @ 11:37 pm

Last month, I authored this post in which I said the following about Ward Churchill and Larry Summers:

Yet, how is Churchill an example of the big chill [on academic speech] and Summers is not? Summers’s case is actually much worse because the censorship is coming from academia itself. At least with Churchill, the professors can repel the hoi-polloi barbarians at the university gate. But what to do when the inhabitants inside the ivied walls set upon one of their own; when the chill wind of censorship is blowing from the inside? Who will rally ’round Summers?

Larry Summers is, of course, not the only person who needs his free speech protected from the self-avowed guardians of free speech. Melanie Phillips points out this Guardian story about the Association of University Teachers' ("the UK's leading lecturers' union") threat to boycott any Israeli academics who do not condemn the actions and policies of the Israeli government concerning the Palestinians. The boycott could also include breaking ties with several Israeli universities.

It's nice to know that high-minded academics think so highly of free speech, independent thought, and open discourse that they will apply a political litmus test to professors of a certain nationality before deciding whether anything they say deserves to be listened to. Have merely some vocal liberals in academia just gone mad or does this stupefying hypocrisy affect the lot of them?

As I said before, the true threat to free speech and academic freedom does not come from outside the campus walls, it comes from the inhabitants within. An external threat is easily recognized and can be repelled. An internal threat is insidiously seductive as “right opinion” or “proper thinking,” and causes otherwise good people (mostly) to adopt what they behold in others with contempt.

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