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« Why Do the Republicans Hate Our Troops? | Main | Speaking of supporting our troops. . . . »

February 03, 2005



To say this is a stupid comment is an understatement.

Stupid? That doesn't belong. Maybe slanderous, venemous, violent, angry, repulsive.

Let's call Owens' comments what they are: a blatant and unjustified attack on academic freedom.

I've never understood "academic freedom" to mean "anything goes." If you or Professor Yin went around saying things like, "Blacks are inferior -- they belong in prison," I don't think you'd be able to hide behind academic freedom. Racism is racism. Hate is hate. Churchills's statement evidences hatred not merely for capitalism, but for people murdered.

Let's try another analogy. Imagine you went around saying that the Night Stalker was an honorable man, because he put women in their place. Would that statement qualify as academic freedom?

Just because a professor says something does not mean those statements have anything to do with academic freedom.

[The Republicans] simply want to make an example of a scholar who has consistently criticized the US government's genocidal treatment of Native Americans.

Well -- were the Republicans after him before his 9/11 comments? If not, then they probably want his head for mocking the death and suffering of thousands of people.

You know what....if Churchill is so damned principled, he should quit his job. After all, his position is funded by the tax dollars of "self-important [ ] little Eichmanns." Why should the noble professor sully his clean hands by accepting this blood money?

Then again, I've never met a person so hateful of our capitalist system that he was willing to give up a tax-funded position.


Actually, in my career, I've known several professors who are racist and anti-semitic, and while they're generally hated by their colleagues and have no friends, and students take their classes only if all the other sections are filled up, nobody calls for their jobs. The most prominent one is the professor at, as I recall, Northwestern who is a holocaust denier and put up a Web site a few years espousing his warped views.

Tung Yin

Mike makes some good points, but on balance, I tend to agree with Kevin that the Governor shouldn't be trying to seek additional sanctions against Churchill.

However, I did want to point out that I think it's, um, somewhat disingenuous to assert that this sort of squelching of free speech is characteristic of the Right. After all, the often overbroad and pernicious campus hate speech codes were dreamed up by the Left. It's the Left that shuts down the "affirmative action bake sales" because it doesn't like the argument that the bake sale proponents are making. (Keep in mind, I'm not persuaded by the bake sale argument; I think it's easily distinguishable from affirmative action in admissions. But I also think it's reprehensible for public schools to close them down on the grounds of offensiveness or other such pretext.)

Kevin Jon Heller

Tung has a good point about campus hate-speech codes. I'm unequivocally against them -- and I was the only lefty student at Stanford Law School to join with the group of conservative students who sued Stanford over its hate-speech code, authored by one of the professors in the law school. Heck, I even helped research and write part of the brief.

That said, there is a significant difference between shutting down a bake sale, however wrong, and firing a tenured professor for unpopular ideas. The left is just as prone to censor as the right, to its discredit, but it does not have the broad-based social, political, and economic power to enforce its views that the right has.

Which is why Eugene Volokh's "defense" of not firing Churchill in today's Volokh report -- that if it's permitted, "left-wing faculties and administrations" will fire right-wing professors for much less offensive comments -- is ridiculous. First, administrations and boards of regents are far more conservative than faculties, and it is they who ultimately control hiring and firing. Second, I can't think of a single conservative professor fired for unpopular beliefs in the past few decades -- whereas you don't have to go back much further to find a systematic purge of left-wing professors. Remember McCarthy and HUAC in the 40s and 50s?

Tung Yin

The left is just as prone to censor as the right, to its discredit, but it does not have the broad-based social, political, and economic power to enforce its views that the right has.

The concession that the left is just as prone to censor as the right is the point I was making. Assuming that I agree with the second clause -- which is undoubtedly true in some areas of the country but perhaps less so in others -- all this means it that the Left wishes it had the social, political, and economic power to enforce its views, and if it did have that power, it would abuse it as well.

Kevin Jon Heller

Unfortunately, I have to agree -- the left would certainly abuse its power if given the chance. Which is unfortunate, because if history teaches us anything, it's that when censorship is a legitimate tool of governance, it's the left that suffers.


Funny that you reference Volokh's defense of Churchill while making broad statements about "the right." I've certainly never thought of Eugene as a leftist, and his views don't seem to correspond with those of the straw man you've set up. I might say the same about Glenn Reynolds and Steve Bainbridge, who also have strongly defended Churchill. (Bainbridge, in particular, is a genuine conservative, not merely a libertarian like the other two.)

Kevin Jon Heller

I should have been more clear: I respect Volokh's defense of Churchill, as well as Bainbridge's and Reynolds'. Whatever political differences I have with all three -- and they're significant -- they are clearly principled conservatives, at least on this issue. I was simply questioning Volokh's rationale for defending Churchill: that it's right-wing academics who will suffer if CU is permitted to fire him. I think that rationale is simply empirically false.


Fair enough. I don't know academia well enough to speak on the empirical point, but neither do I think Eugene's argument depends on it. He quotes Black for, in essence, the proposition that what I can do to you today, you can do to me today or, perhaps, tomorrow. Even if Eugene believed that infingements on academic freedom would not disproportionately impact conservative/libertarian faculty right now, or in the near future, I see nothing to indicate that he would support such infringements. My guess is that the empirical observation, right or wrong, probably was intended to knock a little sense into those who place less emphasis on principle than Eugene does.

Ron Groeber

Being only human, we all tend to fall into stereotyping especially stereotyping those with whom we differ. Debating whether the left or right is more hostile to free speech, makes no sense. We should acknowledge that there are defenders of free speech in both camps, and a tendency for both camps to accuse the other of being really stupid about it. The point is that anyone who seeks to put boundaries on free speech doesn't get it. The reason we all should oppose the Governor of Colorado, is that none of would want our speech restricted. None of us, want to have to worry about going over some vague and indefinable boundary. Consider what a disaster we would have. Think about it, any boundary would necessarily be vague. We would be self-censored and paranoid. With the exception for conduct masquerading as speech, Free speech must be absolute or it isn't free speech. Yelling fire in a theater, or urging people to get that white guy and kill him, or offering a reward for the murder of anyone, these are simply conduct in that they direct others to do immediately something awful.

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