FREE SPEECH? YOU BET, IT ISN'T WORTH A DIME
There's a saying, "Don't spit down my back and tell me it's rainin'" [sanitized a bit]. This comes to mind when I ponder the maelstrom that surrounded the now cancelled speaking-appearance of one Professor Ward Churchill, at Hamilton College in upstate New York. What sparked the controversy were comments he made about the 9/11 victims at the World Trade Center, wherein he likened them to Nazis and branded them "little Eichmanns." His assertion is that they were in some measure deserving of the horrible fate that was visited upon them by terrorists, who, in turn, constituted "combat teams" that made "gallant sacrifices."
I read the essay containing the remarks and it encompasses the usual left-wing drivel, embedded in what is probably one of the more highbrow defenses of the indefensible. In fact, reading it brought to mind something George Orwell once said, "Some ideas are so preposterous that only an intellectual could believe them." But I won't waste any words analyzing Churchill's misbegotten ravings. Lunatics have always existed; what is truly alarming is that so many of them occupy tenured positions at the propaganda mills that masquerade as esteemed institutions of higher learning.
And don't give Hamilton College any pats on the back for cancelling Churchill's appearance. College President Joan Hinde Stewart only decided to axe the event after receiving what she termed "credible" death threats, although it's more likely that her true concern was that she saw the college's donations in the throes of death. Regardless, she had previously been defending the embrace of Churchill by saying the college was committed to free speech. Yeah, sure, I say again, don't spit down my back and tell me it's rainin'.
What's wrong with free speech? Nothing at all, but this has about as much to do with free speech as Churchill's cogitations have to do with truth. Our right to freedom of speech merely guarantees us freedom from government infringement upon our expression of belief, but the private sector is a different matter altogether. For instance, you can decide that only certain points of view will be allowed in your home and can banish individuals who won't comply with your wishes. Similarly, I have no legal right to have this piece published by my editors; as private entities they have sole discretion as to whether or not I get to express my opinions on their pages.
Hamilton College is no different. As a private institution it's not bound by any constitutional dictate to provide a forum for any and every point of view, nor can any credible claim be made that it is bound by conscience to do so. If you don't believe this, let me lend this a little perspective.
Imagine that I had said, "You know, those Jews who died during WWII were the authors of their own demise" or, "Those black people who were enslaved in the nineteenth century were hardly undeserving of their fate." Do you think that one of these vaunted institutions would invite me to its campus to give a speech? Methinks not, and I suspect that my having expressed the views within the context of a scholarly exposition would matter not a whit.
However, Hamilton College is not alone in its unfailing respect for free liberal speech. An even more recent story is that of Northeastern University economics professor Shahid Alam, who seems to share Churchill's sympathy for Islamic terrorists. His tack is to draw a loose equivalency between the 9/11 hijackers and the founding fathers who sparked the American Revolution. Alam trivializes the fact that the American colonists didn't target civilians while the hijackers did by saying that it "should not obscure the more basic fact" that the two groups shared the aim of seeking "to overthrow what they perceive[d] to be foreign occupations." But the professor has it exactly backwards: the truth is that he is elevating to primary importance a purely incidental similarity and subordinating to it a difference so profound that it places the groups on vastly different moral planes. It seems Alam has never heard that perception isn't always reality and that the end doesn't justify the means.
What will not come as a shock to any astute observer of cultural trends is that this is nothing new, as academia has a long history of providing safe haven for the most odious of ne'er do wells. The quite perverted research-fraud Alfred Kinsey was provided cover by the University of Indiana over fifty years ago. Radical-feminist University of Michigan law professor Catherine McKinnon made headlines by stating that "all sex is rape" - even between married couples - almost twenty years ago.
And the academic malpractice foisted upon America's youth is as widespread as it is longstanding. In fact, if you're not sure that you truly grasp the breadth of the problem, just log onto: Students For Acadenic Freedom. They have a complaint center where students can lodge complaints about academic bias and describe their experiences, and the volume of the complaints is as staggering as the nauseating detail often present within them.
We all draw lines when determining what views we'll espouse in our private endeavors and, truth be known, the left could get writer's cramp drawing theirs. As mentioned before, not too many of these ardent defenders of free speech would entertain those espousing nakedly Nazi or white-supremecist sentiments.
But it goes much, much further than that.
Just access the Students for Academic Freedom website and you'll discover just how much tolerance these great, left-wing civil-libertarians have for dissent, as you read a legion of stories about their stifling of it with intimidation and punishment of it with grade-reduction. Nor should we forget that many of these folks are the authors of the politically-correct speech codes that permeate academia.
And there's a final irony to this sordid tale. Ward Churchill had been charged with disturbing the peace for interfering with a Columbus Day parade, and his reasoning will knock your socks off. He said that his actions were justified because the celebrants were commemorating genocide and, as such, their expression constituted hate speech, which means that they were not entitled to it. Ah, yes, the left's brave new world, where we're free to express any leftist sentiment that tickles our fancy.
Back in the salad days of apple pie America, when patriotism could serve as a metaphorical get-out-of-jail-free-card, it was once said that "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." But in post-America Amerika, I think it's more correct to say that freedom of speech is the last refuge of a scoundrel. For, the truth is that freedom of speech is simply a convenient card the left plays to hide their sympathy for the indefensible. Everyone has boundaries, outside of which lie that which is beyond the pale, that which we cannot abide, that which won't find a place at our private table of reasoned discourse. If these academics would just admit that the Churchills and Alams of the world have a place at theirs, I could manage a modicum of respect for them. But if they truly believe that this is a matter of free speech, their intelligence is brought into question. If it's merely a ruse, then they are cowards who are insulting ours.
Regardless, we must be mindful of the fact that the pabulum they serve at their table poisons the young minds they have been enjoined to nourish. As of now, these "professors" still have their jobs, but they should exercise their freedom of speech elsewhere. Mind-molesters have no more of a place on a college campus than a child-molester has at a daycare center.
© 2005 Selwyn Duke - All
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Selwyn Duke lives in Westchester County, New York. He's a tennis professional, internet entrepreneur and writer whose works have appeared on various sites on the Internet, including Intellectual Conservative, nenewamerica.us (Alan Keyes) and Mensnet. Selwyn has traveled extensively in his life, visiting exotic locales such as India, Morocco and Algeria and quite a number of other countries while playing the international tennis circuit.
However, Hamilton College is not alone in its unfailing respect for free liberal speech. An even more recent story is that of Northeastern University economics professor Shahid Alam, who seems to share Churchill's sympathy for Islamic terrorists.