semiotically confused website called Whiskey
Bar which is evidently the work of a historically challenged
individual with the nom de net of "Billmon" has
attempted a heavy-handed satire of the academic
freedom for students movement, caricaturing it as an
attempt to pull off a Maoist purge of leftwing academics
and their doctrines from American university campuses.
equally at sea leftists, have linked the Billmon agit-prop
and spread it across the net. Michael
Berube recommends it as a “brilliant analysis” (even
though it just a collection of paired quotes with a predictable
graphic) and goes on to say that “[Billmon’s] brilliant
analysis of the Contemporary Cultural Revolution is not
only scholarly and erudite, but illustrated. (Well,
yes, Michael it is.) The artistically talented but intellectually
unhinged cartoonist Tommy
Tomorrow affirms the judgment: “This is brilliant.”
it’s quite stupid. The Cultural Revolution which took place
in China in the 1960s (when Tommy Tomorrow and Michael
Berube were campus radicals supporting the revolutionaries)
was a massive political purge conducted by China's dictator,
Mao Dzedong, who had turned against the course his appointed
heirs had taken. The purge was aimed at party and state
officials and also intellectuals who Mao regarded as following
the wrong party line. He incited the infamous "Red Guards," among
whom were many students to attack the Party establishment.
Officials and professors were sacked from their positions,
hauled out of their classrooms and offices, beaten to death
on the way out, thrown into prisons, put before firing
squads and simply disappeared for having politically incorrect
ideas. (In fact, it's from the writings of Mao that politically
correct professors like Michael Berube and his friends
actually got the term "political correctness").
for Academic Freedom, which is the target of Billmon’s
graphic jibe is not even a poor candidate for a modern
Communist Party. Organized along libertarian lines, this
is a movement to introduce intellectual diversity into
an intellectual monolith, not to remove politically incorrect
individiuals or ideas. It is a further irony that those
who oppose this movement (and who love the caricature of
it) are themselves defenders of the monolith and the privileged
elite that enforces it.
Another irony Billmon's satire missed is that I actually designed a little
red book to serve as a guide for the students in what was a calculated trope
on Mao’s own Little Red Book of political doctrines. There are 150 chapters
of Students for Academic Freedom, and I have never met 90% of the students
who are organizing these chapters, which are independent and not under my control.
All I have asked of these student organizers is that they adhere to the guidelines
laid down in the little red book.
contents of this guide book are displayed for all to read
which is the official website of Students for Academic
Freedom. The text is called Mission
and Strategy and it describes the movement's themes
and campaigns, and answers tactical questions that students
might ask. For example: "Can a teacher express his or her
personal opinions and political views in class?" Answer:
Yes. "Should a professor be denied the right to give their
opinions on controversiall issues?" Answer: No. But "they
have a (professional) responsibility to stick to the subject
matter of the course and to the field of their expertise." And
they should treat all students with courtesy and not just
those who agree with their political opinions.
little guide book instructs students that “this is a campaign
to promote reasoned intellectual pluralism, fairness, civility
and inclusion in higher education; to secure more representation
for under-represented viewpoints; to end the tyranny of
majority or minority viewpoints; and to create a positive
learning environment for all students regardless of political
or religious beliefs. It is a campaign to ensure that intellectual
difference is fairly treated."
is the full text of the statement on what the campaign
is about, and it concludes with this sentence: “To sum
up: The campaign is about Diversity, Fairness, Civility,
Inclusion and Respect for Intellectual Difference.” Is
this so difficult to understand? Apparently not since faculty
ideologues are so upset about it. But who can oppose fairness,
inclusion, diversity and civility? That's why the AAUP
is instead calling this movement "a grave threat to academic
freedom" and opponents like Berube and Billmon are trying
to convince the public that we are the totalitarians.
unscrupulous fellow like Billmon would have no difficulty distorting
any campaign. Thus his “Scenes From The Cultural Revolution” page
begins with this quotation:
left has taken over academe. We want it back.” Mike Rosen.
Rosen is not a member of Students for Academic Freedom.
He is not a student, in fact, but a popular radio talk
show host on station KOA in Denver. I have been on Rosen’s
show many times and have actually debated this very point
with him. Rosen is justly upset by the academic commissars
who have purged conservatives and conservative viewpoints
from the academy, who use university resources to fund
the left (Michael Moore collected $1 million in student
funds to campaign against Bush in battleground states for
example) and use their classrooms as political soap boxes. But
Mike Rosen and I differ on how to correct an egregious
situation and restore educational values to the university.
My campaign is not about driving the left out of the university or
taking faculties back through political purges. It is about
fairness, inclusion, diversity and civility.
why I made the very first principle of the Academic Bill
of Rights which is the first goal of the campaign this: “No
faculty shall be hired or fired, or denied promotion or
tenure on the basis of his or her political or religious
beliefs.” Mike Rosen has said in so many words he wants "an
affirmative action hiring program for conservatives," which this
would forbid. In other words, no purges and no cultural
In other words, the analogy to Mao’s Cultural Revolution drawn by Billmon and
praised by Tommy Tomorrow and Michael Berube is a lie, and not a little one.
other quotations are taken out of context by Billmon and
presented in ways that distort and even reverse their meanings.
For example, an article is quoted about a student who put
up a "Wanted" poster with the face of a leftist professor
(who it happens had abused his position). But Billmon doesn't
quote the part of the same article that quotes me deploring
this action. This deviousness and disregard for the truth
is to be expected from the actual heirs to the revolutionary
aspiration embodied in witch-hunters like Mao Dzedong.
Radicals necessarily have little respect for institutions
or principles except as a means to their own power and
Why does the left indulge in transparent shenanigans like this? Because it
can’t handle the fact that it is not the victim class or the voice of the oppressed
in the university but the victimizer and the oppressor. Let's make a myth that
hides this fact. How about portraying Horowitz as a Communist.
viciousness of leftwing academics (currently on display
in separate scandals at Boulder and Harvard) intimidates
non-radical academics and scholars from standing up for
the principles of tolerance, inclusion and academic freedom.
Comparing us to Communists is designed to confuse authentically
liberal professors from the threat to them posed by tenured
radicals, who are giving their profession a bad name.
campaign is a campaign on behalf of students whose professors
commit daily outrages by using their authority in the classroom
and their control over grades to intimidate students into
agreeing with them and to suppress sides of the argument
that differ from their own. They are personally abusive
to students who do not follow their party line, and they
deny all students access to the full spectrum of scholarly
ideas and opinions.
Our campaign, as
I testified to the Ohio Senate, is not about liberals or conservatives,
Republicans or Democrats, as the attacks on us maliciously claim. We have defended leftwing
students against abuses by conservative and Republican professors as well.
of a Colorado final exam topic, which required students to explain why
George Bush is a war criminal, was devised by an anti-war Republican. Such
an assignment is as abusive and unprofessional when it is made by a Republican
as it would be were it made by a Communist (and we choose this comparison because
we are aware that there are hundreds if not thousands of Communist
professors on faculties today).
are not calling for the dismissal of such professors. We
are calling on university departments and university administrators
to adopt policies that would correct such abuses and restore
educational values to the classroom. Our mission is to undo
the "cultural revolution" that has turned so many of our
university into ideological recruitment and training centers
and to return academia to its educational mission and its
commitment to intellectual pluralism. tOR