Free (?) Speech and the ACLU

A very important article by Declan McCullagh at Politech about the direction the ACLU is taking:

Does the ACLU still believe in free speech? Maybe not any more

Wendy Kaminer, who co-authors thefreeforall.net with longtime Politech subscriber Harvey Silverglate, has a provocative and well-argued op-ed in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal. Wendy asks whether the ACLU still broadly supports free speech, and answers the question in the negative.

Wendy points out that the ACLU has been silent on a key free speech case involving anti-homosexual statements that set an important (and awful) precedent before the 9th Circuit and was AWOL on the Muhammad “hate speech” cartoons. The ACLU has supported legislative restrictions on speech of pro-life groups offering abortion counseling. The New York Civil Liberties Union failed to criticize a New York City Council resolution condemning use of the “n-word.” And so on.[1]

He raises some extremely serious issues.

This is not exactly a new phenomenon. Liberals and progressives have long been split between their totalitarian-minded leftist wing that loves to enforce political correctness through “hate speech” laws and campus speech codes — and those who recognize the social and political dangers inherent in banning speech that someone dislikes, and believe the answer to objectionable speech is more speech.

I’ve talked about this in the context of speech as discourse vs. speech as a manifestation of power, and cite Stephen Hicks:

What we have then are two positions about the nature of speech. The postmodernists say: Speech is a weapon in the conflict between groups that are unequal. And that is diametrically opposed to the liberal view of speech, which says: Speech is a tool of cognition and communication for individuals who are free.

If we adopt the first statement, then the solution is going to be some form of enforced altruism, under which we redistribute speech in order to protect the harmed, weaker groups. If the stronger, white males have speech tools they can use to the detriment of the other groups, then don’t let them use those speech tools. Generate a list of denigrating words that harm members of the other groups and prohibit members of the powerful groups from using them. Don’t let them use the words that reinforce their own racism and sexism, and don’t let them use words that make members of other groups feel threatened. Eliminating those speech advantages will reconstruct our social reality – which is the same goal as affirmative action.

This is the position McCullagh and Kaminer suggest the ACLU is trending toward, and I think it’s a bad one if true.

Suggested reading: “Repressive Tolerance” by Marcuse.

33 thoughts on “Free (?) Speech and the ACLU”

  1. If you are a Christian, you knew about this years ago. Granted, the incredibly mixed up state of Supreme Court rulings on separation of church and state that resulted from the confusion of the ‘pragmatic’ O’Connor court could be partially blamed, but you would think that the ACLU would be on the side of free speach regardless of who was making. Instead, it became quite obvious that the ACLU is absolutely silent on student’s writes to free speach within the law if the content was religious, but if the content was whatever a liberal politically correct at the time they’d fight tooth and nail. The result was the creation of competing non-profit conservative ‘free speach’ institutions. I think this probably lead to the the partisan divide getting that much wider. It’s just natural that if you have a disagreement over what constitutes legitimate free speech, that institutional bias will develop and the two sides will polarize. There will be a hiring bias as existing members express subtle or strong preference for like minded individuals. There will be a selection bias as more applicants will go to the institution that they see defending thier interests. There will be as a result ‘group think’ on both sides of the divide. There will be the natural human impluse to respond to antagonism with escalating antagonism. The two sides will began to characterize the other in negative terms. And, even if we don’t wish to believe such disparaging things about ourselves, there is always the temptation for say the ACLU to ignore ‘conservative’ cases because the know competitors in the LLI or the ADF will always pick up the slack.

    It just so happens that I’m on one side of this divide politically. I do think that the ACLU has become dominated with anti-religious and anti-American thinking that distorts thier message of liberty. I do think that there is an obvious double standard on thier part. However, just because I disagree with that doesn’t mean I’m not sensitive to the fact that ‘my side’ is often just as deaf, or more importantly, that this whole polarization is a tragedy.

  2. The postmodernists say: Speech is a weapon in the conflict between groups that are unequal. And that is diametrically opposed to the liberal view of speech, which says: Speech is a tool of cognition and communication for individuals who are free.

    The second is also what conservatives and libertarians say. Only they actually say it. Whereas liberals look at political correctness and say nothing, then accuse everybody of thinking that liberals agree with it.

  3. I think Declan McCullagh makes a lot about the ACLU not taking up a specific case (Harper). I think that’s the equivalent of Andrew Sullivan concluding that Glen Reynolds supports torture because he hasn’t written about it in the last 24 hours.

    In addition to recently supporting a student newspaper’s desire to run an anti-immigration editorial, “Eugene Volokh”:http://volokh.com/archives/archive_2006_11_26-2006_12_02.shtml#1164911908 has pointed out other positions the ACLU has taken in the last few years:

    bq. _In Newsom v. Albemarle County School Bd., a 2003 court of appeals case, the ACLU backed a high school student’s right to wear an NRA T-shirt (surely a “non-liberal voice[]”). For another recent example of an ACLU chapter’s interceding on behalf of allegedly racially offensive speakers, see here. And the national ACLU’s 1994 position statement on the subject condemns campus speech codes; I believe the national ACLU’s anti-speech-code policy was adopted in 1991 (though there was a good deal of dissent within the ACLU about it, especially, I’m told, in the California chapters)._

    So what reasons could the ACLU have to avoid the case? For one, the case was a loser. For another thing, losing would probably create bad precedent. The existing 60’s era Supreme Court ruling is that public grade schools can suppress student speech that either (a) invades the rights of other or (b) reasonably threatens “substantial disruption of or material interference with school activities.”:http://volokh.com/archives/archive_2006_04_16-2006_04_22.shtml The shirt (“Homosexuality is Shameful”) arguably met either alternative grounds. What if the shirt merely said “Romans 1:26″ or what if the student merely wore a black armband on gay appreciation day? What if the shirt didn’t attack a constitutional right (sexual orientation) and attacked a policy (gay marriage)?

    A lot of special interest get sucked into bad cases just to keep their name in the news and to appear to be the toughest on their position. I don’t think the ACLU deserves the criticism here.

  4. As to the cartoon controversy, I’m not sure what the ACLU was supposed to do. My understanding of the group’s mandate is that it works to protect civil liberties against the U.S. government. While I recall Bush condemning the cartoons, I’m not aware of any government action to supress the cartoons. When the U of Illinois appeared to have suspended an editor for their publication, the “ACLU spoke out against it.”:http://www.aclu.org/freespeech/censorship/24197prs20060217.html

    On the other hand, the “ACLU of Massachusetts”:http://www.thefire.org/index.php/article/6803.html issued this statement:

    bq. _The ACLUM, the oldest civil liberties organization in the United States, by its charter, history, and policies, concerns itself primarily with governmental threats to civil liberties. However, on extraordinary occasions, a non-governmental event proves so threatening to liberty that the organization sees fit to speak out. The current world-wide controversy concerning radical Islamic opposition to the publication and republication of cartoon images involving the Prophet Mohammed is such an event._

    bq. _ACLUM believes it is unconstitutional for the government to penalize the publication of so-called hate speech or other speech deemed offensive by segments of the population. Yet ACLUM also recognizes there is a constitutional right to refrain from using such speech as a result of voluntary adherence to notions of civility. Not only must government refrain from pressuring the news media to abstain from publishing such material as the cartoons at issue, but government must also take affirmative steps to protect individuals and organizations that decide to publish such materials. It is further incumbent upon local, state, and national governments, as well as political leaders, to reaffirm the nation’s resolute opposition to the use of threats of violence as a weapon of censorship. The very basis of freedom depends on government to protect civil society from such assaults. This is not a time for any and all who love freedom to remain silent._

  5. Intereasting article, but I would expect that the mere size (& caseload) of the ACLU makes it difficult to determine their allegiance. EAch case is also a little different, and they may have different reasons for avoiding each issue. As I only know the rough outlines of each case, I’m making some assumptions here. Sorry for the length.

    1)Anti-gay t-shirt. Student wore a shirt to class that said “homosexuality is shameful”, and was suspended (?) and so sued. My first question would be wether he actually tried to work with the school before suing. I would guess no, but I could be wrong.

    In the 9th district ruling, they found that hate-speech is not protected in public schools because 1)it is mandatory for students attending (they can’t walk away from it) 2) it could have negative effects on young teens. The same thing goes with any derogatory speech. If someone’s kid called you an (think of the dirtiest swear that I can’t print here) you wouldn’t say “There goes Bobby Wilson practicing his free-speech again!”, no, you would say this kid is out of control. The same goes in school,using language that intentionally attacks others students and creates conflict should be avoided in order to maintain some level of discipline. (My family has a long history of working in middle/High schools, and could tell you crazy stories about such incidents).

    Now, it could be argued that a t-shirt from the band “Bad Religion”:http://fusionanomaly.net/badreligionlogo.jpg does essentially the same thing, and based on my previous logic, i would also ban such clothing. This is not too different (in my mind) than work/school sexual harrasement rulings. On the negative side, this has the potential to get very tit-for-taty.

    Now positive (or at least non-attacking) “Jesus died for your sins” shirts, or “Homosexual and proud” state pollitical opinions, but they don’t attack anyone’s else’s beliefs. Gay students taping their mouth shut doesn’t attack anyone, it just makes a pollititcal statement. “Bong hits for jesus” is complicated by plausible drug paraphenalia, (tabacco bong?) Still, it’s not really an attack per se…

    Mohommed cartoons: No legal case was brought up that I know of, so therefore Goverment mandated freedom of speech was not an issue. If the ACLU had worked to shut down the cartoons, I think this would be bad….

    I mean really, Freedom of Speech protects your right to say anything you want, but it doesn’t protect you from the consequences of being a moron. It doesn’t protect you from people no longer liking you anymore afterwards, fair or unfair. It doesn’t protect the cartoons from being boycotted, it doesn’t protect radio DJ’s in their job.

    Anti-abortion groups: I don’t agree with ACLU on this one. but I’m not very familliar with the case, and their could be additional complications (disguised attacked, intentional misrepresentation etc) that make this more complicated than just FOS.

  6. _Anti-abortion groups: I don’t agree with ACLU on this one. but I’m not very familliar with the case_

    I think “this”:http://www.nysun.com/article/30159 is what they are talking. The ACLU worked with a Congresswoman to craft legislation that would require truth in advertising for abortion counseling services. I don’t see a problem with that type of legislation or the ACLU working with a legislator to influence better legislation. I do not think the ACLU should be giving its good-housekeeping seal of approval on speech restrictions. Particularly since they don’t have the resources to challenge every speech case in the country, they shouldn’t harm other people’s ability to challenge the laws. The Bill of Rights belong to the people, not the ACLU.

    Minor transgression though. The subject area is already contaminated by government-compulsory speech (mandatory anti-abortion lectures and pamphlets).

  7. Good grief, here we go again:

    “What we have then are two positions about the nature of speech. The postmodernists say: Speech is a weapon in the conflict between groups that are unequal. And that is diametrically opposed to the liberal view of speech, which says: Speech is a tool of cognition and communication for individuals who are free.

    If we adopt the first statement, then the solution is going to be some form of enforced altruism, under which we redistribute speech in order to protect the harmed, weaker groups. If the stronger, white males have speech tools they can use to the detriment of the other groups, then don’t let them use those speech tools.”

    What’s wrong here? Calling speech a weapon is no more diametrically opposed to calling speech a tool for use by free individuals than calling a handgun a weapon is diametrically opposed to calling a handgun a tool for use by free individuals. Speech can be both a tool and a weapon.

    I would adopt the “first statement” as being accurate (though a limited account of what speech is) but I would not agree that the “solution” is enforced anything. I think that creating an awareness and understanding of how speech works is the primary goal of postmodernism in this regard, not totalitarian speech codes.

    The mindset represented in this post is the same as if I were to claim that conservativism is a movement that attempts to squelch free speech because Ann Coulter and her ilk claim that dissent against war is an act treason during war. Yes, some extreme elements go way too far, but it is intellectually dishonest to let the fringes of movement stand for its far more populated center.

  8. I think that creating an awareness and understanding of how speech works is the primary goal of postmodernism in this regard, not totalitarian speech codes.

    That’s like saying the primary goal of communism is the equal distribution of the surplus value of labor, not totalitarian speech codes.

    Theory and practice are very different in both cases, and it isn’t wrong to focus on the negative practical effect rather than the positive theoretical one. Indeed, I’d say it is wrong to focus on the positive theory when reality is much uglier.

    Besides which, I reject the way postmodernists slice up the “groups” which are “unequal.” Al Sharpton and Nancy Pelosi have a lot more power than I do, despite my complexion and reproductive plumbing.

  9. mark, I don’t think you addressed the main points of contention (for me at least) which is whether speech should be seen primarily as a “group” process between “unequals.”

    I value my individuality greatly and while you may not mind your views being simply characterized as those of an “anti-assimilation, communist, atheist pro-redchina lesbian vegitarian,”:http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/009661.php#c15 I think it is both a form of intolerance to give primary consideration to group identity, it also prevents one from analyzing the truth. Once I’ve categorized you I don’t need to respond to your thoughts and ideas, but why your group would think that way.

    And equality might be an interesting context to evaluate speech in a number of areas, it is a poor substitute for open inquiry and it certainly isn’t the sole basis of social relations. I greatly fear the quest to discover inherent inequity is becoming a greater source of inequity itself.

  10. The whole newspeak project is coming along well for the progressives.

    We have the playing of loud music and putting panties on a sensitive man’s head being called torture, leaving no word that can be accurately used to describe the real thing.

    We have hate speech codes being advanced in the name of free speech, though they are clearly meant to be legal means to suppress speech.

    We have leftist retards who claim to support the troops, who they call depleted-uranium firing babykillers in private, by canceling the funds to train and armor them.

    And we have a so-called religion of peace that is at least in part a death cult.

    Just call me, just call us all, Winston.

  11. What PD said. “Black people” and “women” and “lesbian vegitarians” do not speak; individual people with those characteristics speak.

    To the extent that we accept group characterizaions and start making judgments based on them, it will be bad news for the lesbian vegitarians. There’s a lot more straight meat eaters out there.

    Once I’ve categorized you I don’t need to respond to your thoughts and ideas, but why your group would think that way.

    I hate armchair psychologizing, although I’ll confess to having indulged in it myself from time to time. But again, if this process is acceptable, it favors the entrenched power structure far more than any underrepresented minorities, because the Establishment gets to define “normal.” That makes it an idiotic approach for anyone who wants to tear down the existing inequalities.

  12. Wolf: Don’t you think that a high school suspension is a little less dramatic than say BEING EATEN BY RATS? I’m just saying that 1984 is a bit of a stretch here.

    Part of politics has always been describing your position in the most flowery language possible, while meanwhile using the most derogetory rephrasing of your opponents positions. The history of abortion (pro-choice v. pro-life) politics highlights this nicely (or rather egregiously). Yes, even Republicans use their own forms of “PCism” to define their position in it’s best possible light.

    Look, obviously your view on these issues are very normal among the american public(though a little paranoid if you ask me). It’s the reason why Fox news (especially O’Reilly/Hume/Gibson) have such high ratings. You’re not exactly about to be persecuted for your anti-PC beleifs.

    Call me back when you’re being tried in the court of law, or if you’re being fed to lions.

  13. Alchemist,

    Recognition of PC oppression on college campuses at least is not paranoia. Believe me, I was there. And while suppression of political speech and the free exchange of ideas on college campuses may not in itself be the end of Western civilization, it is one more nail in the coffin.

  14. PD Shaw:

    My understanding of the group’s mandate is that it works to protect civil liberties against the U.S. government.

    If the US government decides to grab you out of your house at gunpoint and ship you to Cuba, for example?

  15. “Recognition of PC oppression on college campuses at least is not paranoia.”
    Do you care to give more specific examples?

    I have seen professors say some pretty insensitive things about Christianity, but even as an agnostic, I dealt with the Prof directly through the school administration. There are ways of accomplishing this without suing for free speech violations.

    And the market is always at work: You’re always free to put your money in a college that has a better suited pollitical environment. This is not the case in high school, where the best they can do is just make a safe and stable environment, but queelling speech that is intended to be offensive/arguementative.

  16. Alchemist, I’m not worried about free speech in high schools, for it has long been established that high school students do not have unrestricted first amendment protections. I’m worried about the US Congress passing a hate speech law. That’s much more of a direct assault, by leftist/communist/socialist progressives, on the 1st amendment.

    See the first bullet point here.

  17. Glen, I am not in a position to support the ACLU in all of its positions. As far as I’m concerned there are no civil liberties issues concerning the government’s expulsion of non-resident aliens.

    Your concerns would better be addressed to _Cuba’s_ version of the ACLU. I believe Michael Moore has their contact information.

  18. The ACLU believes the Second Amendment is a Collective,not an Idividual Right and therefore can be regulated.

    How long before they apply that same logic to Speech and the Press, if they have not already?

  19. There’s internal evidence of the ACLU’s abandonment of free speech. Take their online forum, for instance.

    Oh, wait, you can’t; They took it down over a year ago, when censoring comments critical of the ACLU’s inconsistant policies got to be too much of a chore.

    And, of course, they’ve been cracking down lately on speech by employees.

    The ACLU faced a critical choice years ago, when they had to confront the 2nd amendment: Be principled in their defense of civil liberties, or become a captive to people who have higher priorities than defending civil liberties. They blinked, and it’s been a downhill slide ever since.

  20. PD

    In #11 you wrote:

    “mark, I don’t think you addressed the main points of contention (for me at least) which is whether speech should be seen primarily as a “group” process between “unequals.”

    I don’t think many people would argue that speech IS primarily a group process between unequals, though it can be that among a huge variety of other things. I respect your desire to be considered as an individual rather than as part of a larger group. I think we all have that same desire. However, for me it has been more than adequately demonstrated that few of us consider others as individuals rather than as members of group IF they are outside our group. Sometimes this is quite subtle, sometimes it is quite blatant as in many of the arguments put forth these days against illegal immigrants: they don’t assimilate properly, they don’t look, act and TALK like us. The don’t speak proper English.

    I think it is naive to believe that speech is simpy an independent, neutral form of individual communication. How we talk and how we think are intimately connected, and both are culturally acquired.

    I am not in favor of regulating ANY speech EVER. But I do think it is helpful to understand how speech operates, how it works, and how it can contribute to perpetuating a status quo that includes inequities among various groups.

  21. Wolf: I’ve been looking around for information on the hate crimes act that the ACLU is suppporting. The one article I found is “here”:http://www.aclu.org/lgbt/gen/12252prs20050526.html.

    According to the ACLU this law:

    bq. …includes protections against hate crimes committed on the bases of gender identity and sexual orientation, also includes an explicit ban on the use of speech or association to prove criminal activity, unless it specifically relates to the crime…

    bq. The ACLU has for years declined to endorse federal hate crimes bills because they lacked key free speech protections. The Conyers legislation, however, removes the danger that unrelated speech-related evidence would be used as a basis for convicting a person of a hate crime. It also eliminates the risk of prosecutors focusing on “guilt by association” with groups whose bigoted views we may all find repugnant, but which had no role in committing the violent act.

    BAsically, what they’re saying is that in order for a hate crime to exists, they’re must be a criminal act, and they’re must be specific language tied to that act. For example: A man previously from a neo-nazi group happens to get in a fight and kills a black man, doesn’t neccessarrily mean it’s a hate crime. If a man from a neo-nazi group is found burning down churches after encouraging destruction of property… he should get hate crimes.

    Let me know if I’m reading this wrong. Basically, it sounds like free speech is still protected.

  22. Alchemist, leaving aside the way that you’re engaging in special pleading with your dogged pursuit of ACLU hate legislation, as if I cared a whit whether the ACLU or the US Donkey Kongress was behind a bad proposed law, while ignoring the other progressive newspeak initiatives, I’ll address the whole hate crime issue.

    The theory of hate crimes deserving extra punishment goes something like this.

    WHEREAS certain identity groups exist formed of persons who are protected under legislative law from adverse discrimination.

    WHEREAS Congress has legislated extra punishment for those who commit crimes against policemen and other government representatives.

    WHEREAS identity groups to be protected from adverse discrimination are as easily defined as are privileged groups such as policemen.

    THEREFORE identity groups that are protected against adverse discrimination can also be made into privileged groups entitled to beneficial discrimination under law.

    The missing piece is the proof that crimes committed against a member of a thus-privileged identity group are worse then crimes committed against an individual who is not thus identified. I would venture to state that murder is an act of hate no matter what symbol is scrawled on the wall in the victim’s blood. As is rape.

    Also missing is proof that hate crime law does not create an apartheid system, with certain identity groups privileged by law over other identity groups. It clearly does constitute apartheid, so there would have to be some tricky lawyer talk to get around this obvious problem.

    Also worth examining is whether this annointing of special privileges to certain “victim” identity groups does not move our society away from a society of individuals with individual rights toward a tribal system ruled by the elders and other representatives of the tribe, resulting in the same violent, fratricidal conflicts that are enjoyed by other tribal societies in countries such as Iraq, Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia, and Gaza.

    And finally (if a future law is passed stating that hate speech shall be punished without having to be paired with an actual crime), hate crimes punish when no concrete damages can be determined. Can you tote hate speech or the psychological suffering that “ensues” in a wheelbarrow? Or is it simply speech? Isn’t speech, even hateful speech, protected under the 1st amendment? Also who is to say whether speech is hate or not? Is it the speaker, the self-proclaimed victim, or an uninterested listener? I know some people who think that anything that anyone says when the speaker is squinting the wrong way is hate speech deserving of quick punishment. Are these paranoid victims the people who will be determining what is hate speech and what is not? I do not doubt they will be the accusers. How much weight will be given to their sensitivities?

  23. Wolf,

    I think you err on a couple of crucial points. Not all murders are hate crimes (sometimes the motive is simply financial) and not all hate crimes are murders. Hate crimes are usually beatings or destruction of property. Hate crime laws are usually written so that one group or groups are not privileged. A hate crime is crime that is motivated by race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. If a gang of black men abducted and tortured a white man because he was white, that would be a hate crime as much as if the roles were reversed. I think much of your argument falls apart on this particular point.

    Having said that, let me express my total opposition to hate crime laws. While it is common to take motive into account when assessing the degree of punishment a crime deserves (if I kill you while trying to rob you I’ll get more jail time than if I kill you because we got in a bar fight), I am uncomfortable with the idea that gov’t should get involved in policing thought & opinion.

  24. The ACLU has supported legislative restrictions on speech of pro-life groups offering abortion counseling.

    The author makes a reasonable (though not compelling, IMHO) point about the t-shirt case, but, since this seems to be the only real problem the author finds, piles bad faith and inapposite cases on top of it to fill it out. The Mohammad and pro-choice center cases are readily distinguishable: the former involves private actors outside the U.S.; the latter is no more than a case of commercial speech and false advertising.

    Given that, I’m not particularly inclined to delve into the nuts and bolts of the rest of it. Someone willing to foreground such bogus assertions probably isn’t going to be arguing in good faith throughout the rest of the piece.

  25. Wolf: Alot of my feelings on these issues boil down to how hate crime prosecution actually works. (For example: the drug kingpin law sounds great, but in reality only ever catches minor dealers while the kingpins plea-bargain). Since my degree is not in law, I’m not sure how this works. My cousin is though, he just passed the bar and is working for a appeals judge in NYC, so I’ll send him an e-mail (unfortunately his reply will likely come after this debate is tabled)

    My feeling: If this law is being used by police as further evidence in specific cases to convict zealots who are eager to repeat their crimes, I’m ok with it. Instead, if it becomes something typically used by the prosecution to extend the mandatory minimum sentencing, then it’s probably a bad thing.

    Here’s the basic problem i have with critizing the ACLU (or similar conservative groups): No matter what a group like this decides to do: they are a legal group. Everything they do is legitimately through the legal system. This is not DailyKos, which ‘attacks’ issues from a home-grown movement. This isn’t Limbaugh, who will stretch the facts to convince an un-informed audience. At the end of the day, the ACLU has to back up their beleifs in court.

    If they’re wrong (according to our legal system), they lose. But if they win, (and I beleive they do win a significant portion of the time), that means that’re argument (wether you like it or not) is correct by the standard of our legal system. People can bitch about ‘leftist’ propagand a or conservative ‘bigots’ all you want, in the end the courts weigh the facts and come to a decision. This is how the courts are SUPPOSED to work. ’nuff said.

  26. Alchemist #17,

    Been on holiday for Memorial Day, but yes, I can give you specific examples.

    1) I have seen people denied jobs because of their political/theoretical positions. I was thoroughly disgusted a couple of times to hear members of a search committee snickering at the “conservative writing samples” sent in by applicants. Those applicants, needless to say, did not get shortlisted much less the job.

    2) I have seen graduate students censored on their theses and dissertations by committees who refused to approve topics that did not toe the political/theoretical line. In particular a friend of mine who wanted to write about a philosophical/aesthetic aspect of Poe’s poetry (It’s been a while, I don’t remember the exact topic) was coerced instead into writing a dissertation on Poe’s racism.

    3) I have seen graduate students denied degrees for refusing to toe the political/theoretical line.

    4) In two cases, I have seen well-respected, well-published professors tenured before the pomo putsch marginalized, denied promotion, and denied graduate-level classes (which they had once taught) because of their dissent.

    5) In a mock interview at the institution at which I received my PhD, I was told I sounded too “white male conservative” to get a job in my field. The problem was not that I did not mention specific minority and female writers I would teach, but that I picked the wrong flavor minorities and women (not radical enough).

    6) I recall a Modern Drama course in which the professor explicitly forbid taking any approach to the plays we were studying except a certain brand of radical French feminism.

    7) A strong trend toward “Race/Class/Gender Issues in (pick your author, genre, or period)” graduate level classes. These were not classes in which students were free to write about race/class/gender issues if that interested them. They were classes in which students were _required_ to write about class/gender/race issues whether that interested them or not and forbidden to write about anything else.

    So while I admit I never saw anyone arrested, beaten, or tortured for dissent, those who did not toe the political and theoretical line paid a heavy price in terms of their professional lives. And these were not people who were ignorant of theory, some of them wrote quite well supported and well argued dissent from it. They were simply people who opposed it. I never heard about any disqualifications of the people with “conservative writing samples” except those samples themselves. In my own case, my “white male conservatism” was the only criticism I received in the mock interview. Nothing was said about lack of publication or experience (I had plenty of both) or any other disqualifiers. Rember alchemist, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean people are _not_ out to get you.

  27. Oh, I forgot to mention that the above examples all occurred at relatively conservative Southern institutions. I can only imagine what it must be like in places like the left coast and the Soviet state of Massachusetts.

  28. Being in the sciences, politics have never been as much of an issue as “how much money are you being funded?”, so I know a little less of search-committee’s from that viewpoint.

    I do know that at my graduate school, Arizona State, there has been a recent push at removing anyone who is too outspoken and controversial, which has led to refusing-tenure of several liberal humnaities faculty. Of course, those tenured won’t go anywhere. The republican club still complain incessenntly about bias, but they did get Coulter to speak on campus.

    Arizona State’s move towards a mega-school is going to be reminiscent of changes in the near future…. Larger university’s are going to move away from activism and towards a research-geared/graduation-driven insitution. STill, those in power now will continue to control search committee’s for several more years at least.

    Yeah, that sucks. As a student, there’s lots of things you can do (ie the customer is always right…). As a faculty member fighting for a job (which I just finished doing), you don’t have many options. Grin & bear it, I guess, and wait till you’re in a position of power to change some things yourself.

    Good luck.

  29. It is sort of painful to read all these demonstrations of sincerity by people who do not seem to realize that the guy with the Organ is just having fun with a bit of liberal bashing, a normal activity by right wing swine when they are not spilling their bile on the wretched of the earth.

  30. Thanks, garhane for bringing that little taste of fascist rhetoric into the house…it’s good to be reminded who I’m opposed to any why. Make sure Mom washes your brown shirt for the rallies, will you?

    A.L.

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