Thomas Sowell

ONE of the most shameless frauds in academia today is the claim that a new "McCarthyism" is threatening academic freedom. According to this new cry of victimhood, conservative groups are "drawing up enemy lists" of professors who are opposed to the current war against terrorism.

Perhaps the most famous of these academic outbursts was that of a professor of history at the University of New Mexico, who said to his class, "Anyone who can blow up the Pentagon gets my vote." Another professor, at Rutgers University, said that the "ultimate cause" of the September 11th attacks "is the fascism of U.S. foreign policy over the past many decades." There have been many other similarly juvenile and irresponsible expressions of anti-Americanism at many colleges and universities across the country.

When anyone has dared to disagree with these statements and to condemn them publicly, the cry has gone up that this is somehow a threat to free speech -- as if free speech includes the right to silence others who disagree.

One organization which has publicly criticized the anti-American statements of academics is the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA). This is an organization which has for years been pointing out the poisonous monopoly of the left in academia. However, the ACTA did not ask that professors making anti-American statements be silenced. Instead, they said: "If both sides are heard, students and all of us benefit."

You would never guess that this is what the American Council of Trustees and Alumni said by reading the distortions of their position by one of its own members, John H. Bunzel, former president of San Jose State University. According to Dr. Bunzel, the ACTA has "a list of 117 alleged anti-American statements" and is "singling out and condemning certain professors" in its "zeal to expose 'patriotic incorrectness.'"

First of all, the statements quoted in the ACTA report were not "alleged." Every one of them was documented in the report. Nor is it rocket science to figure out that these statements are anti-American. Nor were any professors "singled out" in this report. In fact, not one was identified by name, since the purpose -- contrary to Dr. Bunzel -- was not "drawing up enemy lists."

As for "patriotic correctness," this is one of those little clevernesses in which academics indulge themselves, juxtaposing "political correctness" to "patriotic correctness," in order to create the moral equivalence that is so fashionable in some quarters. But there is no real parallel, since none of the enforcement mechanisms of academia -- ranging from grades to speech codes to ideological hiring and firing -- is either possessed or sought by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.

The supreme irony in all of this is that the very academics who are crying out against "McCarthyism" and other forms of suppression of free speech are themselves the biggest suppressors of opinions that disagree with their own. They ask ideological questions at job interviews, and those scholars whose answers are not politically correct are unlikely to be hired as professors.

The anti-American statements which received such media attention should not have been a surprise. Long before the September 11th attacks, a substantial part of the academic world was not only opposed to the values of American society and Western civilization, but was also unabashed in using their classrooms to propagandize their ideology. Indeed, they have in many cases made it virtually impossible for people who do not share the liberal-left vision to even give a public lecture on campus.

After having imposed an ideological straitjacket on academia, these professors have now wrapped themselves in the mantle of victimhood because they cannot also silence their critics off campus. In going along with this false picture of victimhood, John Bunzel has gotten virtually every fact wrong. Perhaps he should have read the ACTA report before denouncing it. If he in fact read it and then said what he did, that would be even worse.


Thomas Sowell

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

Creators Syndicate