Friday, March 25, 2011

Criticism is not suppression

Inside Higher Ed ran a story in the past week about Timothy J. L. Chandler of Georgia's Kennesaw State University. Chandler was on his way to becoming provost when an op-ed piece in a local newspaper criticized his nomination, and cited a rambling paper Chandler had written in 1998 with Walter E. Davis, who later became a 9-11 troofer.

The infamous paper heavily quotes Marx and was sprinkled with academic jargon and clueless anti-capitalist gems like:

Although the close connection of capitalism to violence is easily shown, it is seldom acknowledged. The allocative resources, which are increasingly disproportionably possessed, were obtained by individuals and groups, at one time or another, by physical force, coercion.

That's an odd way to describe a system of voluntary cooperation, especially from a mindset that has always ended up replacing it with actual force and coercion.

What really bothered me about the spin this story is getting is that Chandler is being held up as the victim of an assault on academic freedom - that op-ed pieces and and blog entries critical of Chandlers nomination are an assault on free speech.

People - that's one of the worst free speech fallacies out there. Freedom of speech means you have the right to express ideas - it is not freedom from criticism or the consequences of expressing certain ideas. Popehat has a great running tally of cases where fools claim the free speech of their critics is tyrannical.

This issue has made me question my position in a post I wrote last year about "take them off the air" campaigns where sponsors are pressured into dropping advertisements for a targeted show, like what happened to Don Imus. I still don't approve of this tactic, but I no longer label it as solid anti-free speech behavior because it's hard to draw the line between lobbying to remove a venue for speech and criticizing a venue being used to express a certain view.

However, no one pressured university donors to pull strings and drop Chandler - all he got was a few editorials and blog entries critical of his appointment. Academic freedom has never meant freedom from the public's ridicule. That's not tyranny or suppression, it's a normal response. It doesn't matter if the criticism is warranted or justified - those concepts don't matter here.

Criticism itself is a form of speech and it needs to be respected too.

No comments:

Post a Comment