November 27, 2002

MORE ON FREE SPEECH — OR THE LACK THEREOF — AT HARVARD. Alan Dershowitz notes that if you took “hate speech” and “offensiveness” seriously, you’d have to ban Tom Paulin and Amiri Baraka, two guys that Harvard seems to regard as neither offensive nor hateful despite their obviously being both.

Meanwhile Scott LeHigh reviews recent events at Harvard — including the cartoon-censorship affair at Harvard Business School, which he correctly calls “laughably trivial,” and remarks:

All that reveals a university community lamentably ready to sacrifice free speech on the altar of civility. Harvard is hardly alone there. . . .

Why no sustained outcry from the faculties? ”They don’t consider that to be a free speech issue because it is imposed by the academic left, and the academic left is an authoritarian movement, not one of genuine liberalism,” Silverglate, himself a liberal, observes.

Yes, complaints about McCarthyism ring rather hollow, these days, given that so much of academia has given up on academic freedom as a principle. And once the question isn’t whether speech should be suppressed, but rather who gets to do the suppression, the PC crowd shouldn’t be surprised to find itself targeted. But it will be, of course, if it ever comes to that. And if it doesn’t come to that, it’ll be because people like Silverglate, anathema to the PC crowd, have stood up for a principle that too many academics have been happy to abandon.