Tuesday, June 16, 2009

All Hail Caesar! Here and Abroad

In the USA, it is "All hail Caesar!" So it seems by the clampdown on students satirizing President Obama at Bucknell University. Readers may recall that during the election campaign the freedom-fighting (?) faculty of the University of Illinois got a reversal of a ruling that would require them to eschew political buttons bashing President Bush and/or candidate McCain. During that free speech fracas, the AAUP and ACLU rushed to join FIRE in protesting this restriction. The AAUP's professed commitment to academic freedom involved both faculty (its constituency) and students (read AAUP Joint Statement here under Student Affairs).

Now that the favorite of academe (Obama) is in power, we wait for the other shoe to drop. And the AAUP, ACLU are . . . silent as a tomb.

Civil libertarian David French opines on the Bucknell situation here. A Bucknell alum notes that his alma mater is a repeat offender.

At least FIRE is consistent: They have defended the right of campus groups to bring left-wingers like Bill Ayers and Ward Churchill to campus.

Speaking of speech tombs, the election in Iran shows how difficult it can be to get out the message. Twitter has emerged as the primary means, along with bloggers who are putting their lives on the line. Why? Because a 2008 Iranian law imposes the death penalty for all those who "disturb the mental security" of others. Hmmm. Have the mullahs been reading U.S. harassment codes?

Read on about the cyberwar being fought in Iran.

Lost in the election debate is the distinction between freedom and democracy. Democracy may be the means to an end but if women are beaten for showing their ankles, Lady Liberty is outraged, even if an election was "fair." The media (and presidential) focus on democracy misconstrues the individual yearning for freedom--the same desire that motivated minorities in this country to cite our natural rights tradition and Constitution protecting the right to deviate from the norm. But that's a subject taken up in my forthcoming book (due out next month), Race and Liberty in America: The Essential Reader.

One final note: there is no moral equivalency between the USA and Iran on matters of speech. Nonetheless, if tyranny has a tendency to spread, it is aided by the forgotten arguments for freedom.


Anonymous said...

I noticed that SIU has a "red light" rating from FIRE on restricting campus speech. But, I also noticed that every random school (except one) I clicked on also had a "red light." Is their rating system perhaps a little overly harsh?

The only school I found with a non-red light rating was the mighty Black Hills State University-- which was given a yellow light rating.


i-History said...

A "Red Light" rating does not mean that every policy is bad but that there is a serious violation in one of their policies. I'll ask someone at FIRE to respond. You can read their rating system after clicking the Red Light on my site.

Here's the interesting thing: When SIU had problems with the sexual harassment code (read earlier posts) I found and posted harassment codes from GREEN light schools. Alas, too few schools are green but one of the schools that led to FIRE's creation went from Red to Green.

On another note: when academic freedom issues arise, I also check community college policies. It is shameful that John A. Logan and other community colleges display more common sense with their harassment and speech policies than is the case with the "big name" schools.

i-History said...

PS: There is an association of university lawyers and they march in lock step, largely for defensive purposes, partly for PC purposes. So SIU will always say they drew upon the policies of x, y, or z school so "hey, we have to be OK." This form of defensive lawyering is akin to "everybody else is doing it." That's how political correctness works: you know the "correct" answer because it has been vetted by the pooh-bahs at Stanford, Harvard, or Berkeley.

Adam Kissel said...

Full details on FIRE's ratings, including lists of schools with each rating, are in FIRE's annual speech code reports: http://www.thefire.org/speechcodereport.php