Monday, February 07, 2005

TENURED RADICAL. Professor Ward Churchill says (more or less) that the victims of the WTC attacks were yes-men for a murderous regime, and that this vitiates his sympathy for them. This prompts calls for the professor's dismissal, most notably by Governor Bill Owens.

The Ole Perfesser has apparently judged that Churchill is more useful to his cause as a negative example than as a celebrity scalp a la Dan Rather. In two high-profile essays, while maintaining plausible deniability on the free-speech thing, he drags Churchill across the whole of academia (excepting, presumably, the sleepy southern sector of it that supplies his own paychecks) -- in hopes, it would appear, that the stink will rub off, and that common folk thus alerted will rise up and do something about them pointy-heads.

At MSNBC, the Perfesser writes
Academics are supposed to be skeptical and questioning, even about their own societies. But there's a big difference between being skeptical -- which requires actual thought -- and being adversarial, which requires only contradiction. What's more, the doctrine of academic freedom -- which goes well beyond the general freedoms of speech encompassed by the First Amendment -- is supposed to be about freedom for individual academics to think, well, freely -- not about the freedom of academic institutions to escape scrutiny from the outside world.
While I'm told law professors like to split hairs, I don't think mere love of craft is driving the Perfesser to be so specific here on the distinctions between adversarial and skeptical, and between "the doctrine of academic freedom" and First Amendment rights. I suspect he is looking for (or, rather, offering to his better-placed comrades in the commentariat) loopholes. By such means, one can call for a professor to be expelled for what he teaches (provided it is "adversarial" enough), and have a high-sounding answer ready for any Constitution-based challenges that might come up.

The Perfesser probably needn't have bothered. After all, the coming generation clearly think the First Amendment goes too far; if such like believe the doctrine of academic freedom goes even further than the notoriously libertine 1A, the targeted reader may feel comfortable dispensing with the whole concept of academic freedom, and not worry if some Constitutional liberties happen to get thrown out along with it.

At Fox News, the Perfesser embellishes and amplifies. In this telling, academia's great offense to normalcy is changed from adversarialism to "cleverness" and "being contrary," perhaps to prevent Fox's readers from having to look up the word "adversarial." The Perfesser also says that "America's campuses are not free-speech zones, but among the most pervasively censored environments in our society." Just like a tenured radical -- I bet he's never worked in a modern corporation: Try taking one of those patented heh-indeeds over underage sex Reynolds gets away with in his little ivory tower, and repeating it around the water-cooler! You'll be up on harrassment charges in no time.

But in his innocence (feigned or genuine), the Perfesser still portrays his own world as so dangerously "politically correct" that it must be reformed -- but not on anything so retrograde as free speech grounds. The Perfesser likes some forms of administration-mandated behavior surveillance -- "Harvard President Lawrence Summers has joined in, calling for his university to embrace patriotic values and get more in line with mainstream Americans," he notes encouragingly. Just some kinds of wrong thinking have to eliminated.

Which would those be? Why, the elitist ones, of course: what place has elitism in an instutution of higher learning? One can see the torch glimmering in his hand as the Perfesser points out to the pointy-heads that he has a whole army of citizens behind him who will happily supply them with a list of permissible attitudes and subjects for discussion:
Not surprisingly, people who would rather be clever than right, who confuse oppositionalism with originality, who hold ordinary Americans and their beliefs in faux-aristocratic contempt, and who do all of this with an unshakable degree of self-righteousness, are not likely to be especially popular.
And if you have long hair and dark sunglasses, that's double-plus-ungood. If you're wondering what sort of end result one might expect from this sort of thinking, read A Canticle for Leibowitz. Or history.

No comments:

Post a Comment