Sunday, February 13, 2005

 

Freedom of Speech and Job Security

Michael Bowers with the Star in Chicago writes:

Now comes Ward Churchill, a history professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder, who believes those who died in the World Trade Center on 9-11 were "little Eichmanns."

The reference is to the banal Austrian bureaucrat, surprisingly ordinary-looking, who was in charge of the infrastructure of Hitler's Final Solution.

Adolf Eichmann never piloted a train through the night in Poland. He never sealed the hermetic door of a "disinfection chamber." No, Eichmann was the desk-murderer.

Now we know from Ward Churchill that those in the Twin Towers were banal American bureaucrats in charge of a new Final Solution that murders Iraqi infants for profit. What do you know?

Churchill would like you to think he's fighting for free speech. He's not. He's fighting for his right to be a jackass and still keep his job. This case has nothing to do with the First Amendment. It's about employment at will.

You see, in America, having a job is like having a girlfriend. Like it or not, each party has the right to end the relationship at any time, for any reason.

The First Amendment simply keeps you out of jail. It does not protect your employment. It does not give you immunity to the consequences of your speech that may arise in the American marketplace of jobs and ideas.

Ward Churchill does not grasp this point. Nor do performers such as Natalie Maines.

Two years ago, Maines, who is a Texan, told an audience in London, "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas." Angry fans stopped buying her CDs, and she complained her First Amendment rights had been violated.

Al Gore added that the Dixie Chicks "were made to feel un-American and risked economic retaliation because of what was said. Our democracy has taken a hit."

Oh no! Made to feel un-American! That's funny, I never knew there was a constitutional right to feel American.

Furthermore, our democracy did not "take a hit" here. It got a boost. You see, another definition of Gore's "economic retaliation" is: "people voting with their dollar."

In short, the First Amendment is not about CD sales. Can we please dispense with this silliness now?

All that said, I still must conclude it would be a mistake for the school to fire Ward Churchill.



Michael talks about the fallout that could happen, from the left as well as the right if this becomes precident. Academic freedom has long included freedom to say the thing that the politicians don't want to hear. But should there be a point of reductio ad absurdum, where it reaches the point of absurdity, of being so far from rationality that one loses one's job because of it?

I've always admired the concept of academic freedom, argue for it, fight for it, and point out where it is being abused. Churchill has abused it by lying about who he is, by possibly making up data for his academic papers and other things. If he has crossed the line for academic fraud, he most certainly needs to go, like anybody else.

But it is a good question: how far do we allow academic freedom to go? If Churchill comes out of a honest audit of his academic work and hasn't lied on his applications, should he still be let go?

Does that mean that Larry Summers at Harvard should be fired because he said something the feminists are unhappy out?

The answers to these questions will do a lot to shape the future of higher education.

Comments:
There is not doubt in my mind that Churchill should be fired. It's a shame that the state of Colorado and our government is allowing him to hide behind such rhetoric as "freedom of speech" and "academic freedom." This man is quite simply, guilty of violating the USC Title 18, Section 2385 otherwise known as Advocating Overthrow of Government.

Since when did people start confusing "freedom of speech" with treason? Since when did "academic freedom" include making up your own historical data? This man not only deserves to get off of the state of Colorado's taxpayer dollars, he needs to be tried for the offense I noted above.

By the way the big difference between what Larry Summers presented and what Churchill has presented is that Summers based his information on scientific fact obtained through research while Churchill simply fabricated his own data.
 
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