Thursday, March 15, 2007
I have written many times of the "violence veto," the means by which nasty pressure groups interdict otherwise lawful speech by threatening life and limb. Now it seems to have silenced an academic talk at the University of Leeds on the history of Islamic anti-Semitism:
Matthias Köntzel arrived at the university yesterday morning to begin a three-day programme of lectures and seminars, but was told that it had been called off on “security grounds”.
Dr Köntzel, a political scientist who has lectured around the world on the antiSemitic ideology of Islamist groups, told The Times there were concerns that he would be attacked. He said that he was “outraged” that his meetings had been cancelled and had yet to receive an explanation.
The university, which acted after complaints from Muslim students, denied that it was interfering with the academic freedom of Dr Köntzel, and said that proper arrangements for stewarding the meeting had not been made.
The lecture, entitled “Hitler’s Legacy: Islamic antiSemitism in the Middle East”, was organised by the university’s German department and publicised three weeks ago. A large attendance had been expected.
Permit me to repeat myself:
The right of freedom of speech -- as I tirelessly and tiresomely remind my readers at every opportunity -- is only relevant for people who say unpopular or controversial things. If speech is sufficiently unpopular or controversial, people may threaten violence with the goal of coercing the speaker into withdrawing the speech or suspending its publication and intimidating future speakers from saying the controversial thing in the first place. Actual or threatened violence is the method that mobs of ignorant or unthinking people use to confront ideas that they do not like, because they are incapable of suffering the idea to exist and lack the capacity to argue against it. The mob does not accept freedom of speech, and seeks to destroy it. The only way to stand for freedom of speech, therefore, is to stand up to the mob and its violence. If we do not do that, we give violent people a veto over our speech, and we therefore have no freedom of speech. None that matters, anyway.
My father said it better than I in April 1971. The University of Iowa -- where my father was professor of history -- had promulgated a draft "statement of professional ethics" which asserted that a “professor’s first priority should be to do all in his power to prevent death and injuries due to violence” during periods of high tension on campus (April 1971 being just such a time). My father objected rather pointedly in a letter to the University:
When conditions on campus are abnormal, the threat usually involves a demand for scapegoats, as some tried to make ROTC a scapegoat for last year’s Cambodian intervention. It is at these crucial moments that the first obligation of faculty members must be to act rationally and to stand firmly behind any member of the community whose rights are threatened. Standing firm is a difficult matter, since capitulation often appears to be the only way of averting violence. Nevertheless, every time we sacrifice somebody else’s rights in the hope of avoiding bloodshed we are guilty of unethical and unprofessional conduct and make our own rights less secure and less respected.
So, under what circumstances, if any, should a university cancel a scheduled lecture because students or other constituents threaten disruption or violence?
None. Line up the paddy wagons and make it clear any miscreants won't be treated with kid gloves...then FOLLOW THROUGH on the threat if they don't believe you.
There will be no problems in the future if the first batch are STILL serving jail terms when the next talk rolls around.
This is the problem - universities are somehow viewed as a "rule of law free zone" when it comes to assaults and random craziness. Shit that would have you doing 6 at CJ if done in a bar, gets you a free pass at a university.
This coddling of "students" must stop. They need to be held to the same civil standards as the rest of the populace.
OT, but the same goes for professional athletes. The game field should not be a law free zone either.
TigerHawk's father was an exceptioal man for forthrightly stating what was at risk. He was also a brave man for doing so and I salute him and would follow such a man.
But we live in a world far removed from 1971. The anit-war lefest, Jane Fonda types went into teaching and journalism during the draft years for exemptions. In the years since they have made our universities not places of open discourse and discovery but places of leftest indoctrination and propadanda against the USA, it's history and culture. We really have no unifying culture remaining. It's all been deconstructed to fit PC multiculturalism. White Eurpoean culture that was the primary force in establishing this nation is now the epicenter of all evil. So be it.
But you're not going to get any university to line up patty wagons or do anything to protect the rights of free speech when the faculty and administrations of those universities will not brook honest debate even in the classroom. It's all about indoctrination and propaganda now.
Free speech on a college campus today...not in this country.
Ten years ago in my mid fifties I decided to go to the local state university and take a course in the French Revolution. Ihad throughout my life read of most revolutions but thought the university might offer something I missed. Oh yeah.
All of the assigned reading was from self decribed Marxist historians. When I asked about this the female professor told me it was that way because they told the truth about the revolution.
All the eager young minds ( could have been their grandfather) sat in silent ignornace and bought into the professors "PhD."
I soon became the skunk at her garden party for asking questions that challenged her version, the marxist version , of the FR.
Well after about four weeks she wanted to have a "conference" with me. She was in he late 30's.
It wasn't a conference it was a warning that it was here class and my questions were out of bounds.
I listened, returned to class and redoubled my efforts.....
You old farts with time on your hands and a wealth of knowledge I urge you to try this. You won't believe what you'll encounter.
PS. This university has an enrollment of almost 30k, so it's not the local JC.
Sadly, this is only ever a problem for conservatives.
People like Chomsky, Ward Churchill, etc. are received on every campus like they are taken to their mother's bosom.
Yet, suddenly, when it is someone espousing a non-liberal viewpoint, tolerance, diversity of opinion and an ardent defense of free speech rights just fly out the window.
Funny how that works.