Tuesday, December 21, 2010

We're All Progressives Now

Stanley Fish has written in his New York Times blog about a new book, Academic Freedom in the Post 9-11 Era, in which I have an essay.

Here's the comment I wrote on Fish's blog:

As one of the authors quoted by Fish, I appreciate his praise for this book. What I disagree with is his presumption that progressives who defend academic freedom are “conservative.” It’s true that a liberal like myself, and the leftists who contributed to this book, are defenders of academic freedom. This separates us from a small minority on the left who believe in censorship of conservative ideas, and it joins us with the conservatives (mostly libertarians) such as FIRE who embrace academic freedom. But that means we’re (almost) all progressives now in embracing free speech, not that we’re conservative.

Fish falsely equates Cornel West, Noam Chomsky, and David Horowitz as people we don’t need to fear. I’d like Fish to tell me, when have West and Chomsky proposed legislation to suppress political speech of anyone, as Horowitz have done? When have West and Chomsky sought campus policies to prohibit conservative professors from assigning conservative texts, as Horowitz has urged? When have West and Chomsky declared that conservative fields of study are illegitimate, as Horowitz has claimed about women’s studies? When have West and Chomsky called for conservative student groups to be banned, as Horowitz has done with the Muslim Student Association?

We don’t need to fear Horowitz’s conservative ideas or West and Chomsky’s liberal ones. But we do need to fear Horowitz’s proposals for campus policies and legislation that threatens academic freedom, as I write in my book Patriotic Correctness: Academic Freedom and Its Enemies. This isn’t demonizing Horowitz; it’s describing what he does and why we should worry about his attacks on academic freedom.

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