Thomas Sowell

SOME of the intelligentsia are yelling louder than ever that they are being silenced. Professors, journalists and others who have made grossly offensive remarks in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attack are shocked that other Americans are criticizing them for it. To them, apparently, free speech means being free of criticism by others who want to exercise their own free speech rights.

As the Chronicle of Higher Education -- the trade publication of academia -- put it, "professors across the country have found their freedom to speak hemmed in by incensed students, alumni, and university officials." Apparently none of these people has a right to be incensed or to express their reactions to the profs.

The self-righteousness of those who want to be exempt from criticism is incredible. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, events "have left emotions so raw that people are struggling to think critically about what happened -- and some administrators would prefer that professors not even try."

Thinking critically? When a professor at the University of New Mexico makes a joke approving the attack on the Pentagon, is that thinking critically -- or thinking at all? At one of the California State campuses, a professor who said that American actions had helped bring on the terrorist attacks was "shocked by the anger his remarks prompted."

Even the Chronicle of Higher Education, while characterizing these responses as "part of the American impulse toward anti-intellectualism" has to admit that "no one has been fired or locked up for joking about bombs or criticizing President Bush." All that has happened is that others have asserted their own rights of free speech. But even that is said to have a "chilling effect." As one professor at the university of Texas put it, the message from the academic administration was "if you stick your neck out, we will disown you."

Apparently other people don't even have a right to disassociate themselves from your remarks. Apparently anything short of uncritical acceptance of whatever asinine statements the profs make seems to them like a violation of the First Amendment.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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