Paulin, an anti-Israel poet, told a Cairo newspaper that Brooklyn-born Jewish settlers on the West Bank "should be shot dead" because they are "Nazis, racists." (Later he said, "I do not support attacks on Israeli citizens under any circumstances.") The Harvard English Department invited him to speak, withdrew the invitation after protests, then withdrew the withdrawal and let him talk. Paulin seems to be inflamed and unbalanced, but so are many others who speak at Harvard. Let's hear what he has to say.
Elsewhere, Harvard isn't doing too well on the free-speech front. A tiny message ("incompetent morons") in the corner of a cartoon criticizing the business school's career services program was enough to bring the wrath of the administration down on the editor of Harbus, the school newspaper. Deeply affronted, the business school issued a "verbal warning" to Harbus editor Nick Will, who then resigned under the pressure. The administration said Will and the newspaper had violated "community standards." The Record, the newspaper of the Harvard Law School, said the incident showed that "speech within universities today is more restricted than in almost any sphere of American society." True, but we've known this for years.
Harvard Law has its own free-speech problems. Black students and their allies are pushing hard for a speech code that would restrict many unspecified "offensive" comments in and out of classes. Professor Alan Dershowitz said, "These are people with extraordinarily thin skins who ... insist that Mommy, Daddy and the dean come to their rescue instead of debating in the market of free ideas."
Universities and many students have a way or extolling free speech and undermining it at the same time. Here are some current anti-speech ploys:
"No one is more strongly in favor of free speech than I am. However, my opponent is saying things that really annoy me."
It would be wrong to punish people for speaking freely, so we won't. However, we intend to get them later in some other way.
Free speech is important, so we have set aside these small areas on the edge of the campus for it.
Free speech is crucial, but, gosh, it has to be nice.
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