Tuesday, February 15, 2005

How the Right and Left Handle Academic Controversy

Jonah Goldberg has contrasted the liberal reaction and "apology" effort regarding the Larry Summers affair to the conservative effort to get rid of Ward Churchill. Goldberg marvels at how the Left is still more quickly effective in achieving their goal.
In the Summers affair, free speech and academic freedom barely came up, except among a few conservative commentators and one or two academics who were already known for their political incorrectness. Instead, Summers was a pinata to be bashed for material rewards and to send the message that some subjects — no matter what the evidence — are simply taboo even for serious scholars to discuss in closed-door, off-the-record meetings.

Meanwhile, Ward Churchill, whose scholarship is a joke, whose evidence is tendentious at best, and who called the victims of 9/11 the moral equivalent of a man who sent babies to the gas chambers, is a hero of free speech. He has refused to apologize. Many conservatives are forced to defend free speech and "diversity" in academia while liberals let the NOWers feed on Summers's flesh.

Liberals may despise what Churchill said, but it's a matter of principle now. The normally insightful and fair Mort Kondracke declared on Fox News, "I really think it's useful for universities to have people like this around, to show students and the rest of us just how odious some of the ideas of the far Left are." Would Kondracke punt on a professor who'd endorsed slavery? I somehow doubt it.

Hopefully — and, I think, probably — someone will find enough academic fraud to fire Churchill for cause. No doubt, we'll hear from many on the left about the "chilling effect" such a move would have on "academic freedom," and many conservatives will clear their throats in embarrassment. You really have to marvel at how the other side has mastered this game.


Anonymous said...

Jonah Goldberg is in a position to judge the work done by Ward Churchill? Even if it were a joke, how would Jonah Goldberg know? Jonah Goldberg has been consistently caught opining on subjects he knows nothing about--one need only witness his confrontation with Juan Cole.

Anonymous said...

Excuse me, is this supposed to be "Political commentary with a historical perspective and vice versa", or is it just right-wing propaganda? If you mind me asking.

(As a reminder, Summers was speaking as a public official, not as a scholar. That's why academic freedom didn't come up in his case.)