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Thursday, April 03, 2003
 
Free Speech and Nicholas de Genova

Republican Congressman J. D. Hayworth of Arizona has begun circulating a petition to get Nicholas de Genova fired for his recent comments about wishing a "million Mogadishus" upon American forces in the current war. Emmett Hogan on Dartlog correctly points out that this petition flies in the face of academic freedom, and should not be allowed to pass. Meanwhile, several bloggers on Free Dartmouth (see the Comments for this post) have taken Hayworth's comments as an opportunity to launch some rather vicious attacks on Republicans for being "the jerks you expect them to be," "spreading their noxious affluvium to Americans everywhere," and only caring about "the right for rich people not to pay taxes." So much for intelligent, reasonable discourse then...

1) I think we can and should make a distinction between politicians and pundits here. The latter, as far as accumulated anecdotal evidence suggests, are actually very supportive of free speech and academic freedom. See Emmett Hogan's post above. Or consider the principled stances of people like Andrew Sullivan or National Review's Stanley Kurtz. In this article, Kurtz says that Harvard should not have cancelled its invitation to anti-Semitic poet Tom Paulin. The "best way to react to his scurrilous remarks would have been to peacefully protest his appearance (without shouting him down), and to actively question and criticize him, while inviting his response."

2) The left should not be getting too self-righteous here. If anything, so-called liberals - particularly on campus - have an even worse record of disrespecting free speech. You can read The Shadow University, by Alan Charles Kors and Harvey Silverglate (both libertarians), or you can browse the case studies on their website, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Or you can simply turn a critical eye on what happens on the Dartmouth campus.