Monday, February 28, 2005


The controversy over Harvard President Summers' remarks got me to thinking. The left is castigating him for his remarks, and he may lose his job in a no-confidence vote of the faculty. Even if he keeps his job Harvard will lose some funding from people who will refuse to donate in protest. Summers has been called a chauvinist, and worse, for suggesting in an academic workshop that all possible reasons why women are underrepresented in the hard sciences be explored, even including whether men have more natural aptitude.

And it is crap. The left-wing crusaders out to get him are simply wrong.

In exploring why women are underrepresented nothing should be left on the table, even topics that some find offensive. When the Army was fighting to stay segregated some suggested that "colored" soldiers simply couldn't perform like white soldiers due to whites' superior aptitude. So the Army did a study. Racists didn't like the results because of course they showed that wasn't true. But if the study had not been done it would have been harder to integrate the force. And it is a fact that boys show mathmatical aptitude earlier than girls, while girls show greater verbal aptitude. Whether this is due to nature or nurture is surely deserving of exploration. Men are many times more likely to suffer autism than women, something that may be related to mathematical aptitude. Or not. And reading the remarks Mr. Summers actually made shows that he was not saying he felt women don't have as much aptitude for hard science as men, but that the issue should be discussed in order to understand why so few women are on the hard science faculties of major universities. Result: he is condemned.

The right-wing has come to his defense, claiming (rightly, no pun intended) that punishing Summers threatens academic freedom and intellectual inquiry in general. I say "right on" (pun intended.) The purpose of intellectual inquiry is to discover truth and sometimes that makes people uncomfortable. Tough. Free speech is vital in academia, and if it doesn't exist there it surely exists nowhere at all. Regardless of how offensive a comment is, the way to address it is to show it is true or false in a logical, civil debate. Those who want Summers removed are threatening all of us. Self-censorship from fear of being "Larry Summered" will do all of us harm.

But then there is the case of Ward Churchill, an ethnic studies professor who made idiotic comments comparing 9/11 victims to nazi criminals. He actually was stupid enough to blame the 9/11 victims for their own murders because they were serving the "capitalist system." Ok, he is a nutbag and maybe a commie. And calling 9/11 victims "little Eichmanns" as he did turns my stomach. But guess what? Those who want Churchill punished are threatening all of us. Self-censorship from fear of being "Ward Churchill'ed" will do all of us harm. Free speech is vital in academia, and if it doesn't exist there it surely exists nowhere at all. Regardless of how offensive a comment is, the way to address it is to show it is true or false in a logical, civil debate.

Hmmm... many of the same people defending Larry Summers' academic freedom are the ones calling for Ward Churchill's removal. And many of the same people attacking Larry Summers are the ones defending Ward Churchill's academic freedom (although, to be honest, there are actually few defending Churchill since he is clearly a nut, and his "scholarship" is mush-headed dribble).

But I want to go on record as defending Ward Churchill's academic freedom. I do not agree with what he said, but I think he should be free to say it. I don't think his saying it will force anybody to believe what he says or do any harm except to his own credibility. Punishing him for his ideas does great harm to all of us.

To quote Oliver Wendell Holmes, the "free marketplace of ideas" is vital. The way to defeat communism wasn't to ban the Communist Manifesto or punish Marxist university professors but to show that the ideas were wrong. It is ok to debate those who disagree with you - it helps you understand your own position even better. While you may never convince the Marxists themselves you will be able to convince others. And even Marxist ideas contributed to our nation, believe it or not. While we were defending "freedom" our communist enemies delighted in pointing out how segregation and Jim Crow laws showed that the US was not truly free. On that point they were right. Instead of shutting out the criticism we changed the system, communism fell, and we were better off for having listened to what our enemies were saying. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

So I think Churchill is a flaming idiot, and I think Summers deserves a little credit for trying to explore why there aren't more women at the top of hard science academia, surely not a chauvinistic thing to do. And I think those who would defend Summers and not Churchill are as wrong as those attacking Summers. They are hypocrites. Defending "free speech" when you agree with it is easy. It is defending speech when you disagree with it that is the true measure of how much you like freedom.

Voltaire famously said "I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

So to Mr. Summers and to Mr. Churchill, I say I think you should be allowed to speak without being fired. Continue to speak up and speak out. The free and open marketplace of ideas will decide how much weight should be given to what you say.


an american said...

It would be nice if both sides could be required to switch for a little while. Those on the right defending Churchill and the left picking up the slack for Summers. Both might learn something.

free0352 said...

You are correct TWD. I will say this and I think you'll agree. If you don't like Churchill, don't pay to go or pay for your kid to go to the univercity of colorado and if you don't like summers don't go to harvard.

that simple. Should these two be alloud to say literally whatever is alloud by law, oh definately. The school howerver should not be shocked when this effects tuition. I know i for one would be hesatant to attend UofC now, because i would rather not sit through a 3 hour defense of the workers utopia.

now if the school fires either of these clowns because they do not support what they are teaching

fine by me.

Jamie said...

regarding Ward Churchill, obvious hyperbole...he sparks 'gut' reactions hoping for an honest debate. Not that you would notice what he said besides the eichmann remark, people are too busy dragging his character through the mud.

and there was context to consider...well read for yourself, this was printed after his article immediatly after 9/11.

"The preceding was a "first take" reading, more a stream-of-consciousness interpretive reaction to the September 11 counterattack than a finished piece on the topic. Hence, I'll readily admit that I've been far less than thorough, and quite likely wrong about a number of things." ~ Ward Churchill

And the subject he teaches, yeah genocide makes people uncomfortable for some reason

but OMG OMG OMG his HUGE crime here was pointing out the dreadfully obvious...

"I am not a "defender" of the September 11 attacks, but simply pointing out that if U.S. foreign policy results in massive death and destruction abroad, we cannot feign innocence when some of that destruction is returned. I have never said that people "should" engage in armed attacks on the United States, but that such attacks are a natural and unavoidable consequence of unlawful U.S. policy. As Martin Luther King, quoting Robert F. Kennedy, said, "Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable."
~ Ward chruchill

And yes, pointing out the elite greasing the military machine is a bit extreme. One could infer, the elite are pretty much the only ones that can do anything, and if you continue to grease the machine knowing full well its in your power to impeach the asshole liars killing people throughout the world, and remain complacent, we are all to blame, moreso, the elite few who can exercise the largest swell of disproval of foreign policy, but they don't...and he's not talking about a walmart store in a parking lot mall, hes talking about a strategic blow to the heart of Americas global financial empire..

the mark of an educated mind is that it can entertain an idea without accepting it

Frater Bovious said...

Another mark of an educated mind is to be able to hold two opposing ideas in your mind at once without going insane. Somewhere in the tension created by holding those ideas in opposition lies the truth. fb

vrangel said...

A lot of noble words and principles here. Now pesky reality:

"University of Colorado officials investigating embattled professor Ward Churchill received documents this week purporting to show that he plagiarized another professor's work." . . .

Dalhousie began an investigation after professor Fay G. Cohen complained that Churchill used her research and writing in an essay without her permission and without giving her credit. Although the investigation substantiated her allegations, Cohen didn't pursue the matter because she felt threatened by Churchill, Crosby said.

Crosby said Cohen told Dalhousie officials in 1997 that Churchill had called her in the middle of the night and said, "I'll get you for this."

Note this: "Although the investigation substantiated her allegations..."

He (as well as anyone) should be fired for stealing fellow professor's work. I don't care about the rest.

Jamie said...

I returned here because of the predictable response of the latest attack...

It really is quite pathetic, but predictable.

Continue to not reply to the article, just attack his character...

He's explained the eichmann remark suffiently, he may be a prick, but insane? Come on...he may speak in hyperbole, but never mind that, blind nationalism dictates that you can't look at yourselves, and the motivations of those that attacked you, he is a terrorist apologist and should lose everything because freedom of speech in your country should only be given to those that talk all nicey nice and don't make waves...

the plagiarized bullshit, gimme a break, UC is looking for anything they can to dump this guy, and the very fact they are doing it because of some stupid remark taken out of context is ridiculous, I guess freedom of speech is a violation when attacking the establishment...and uhoh, kids might actually start thinking for themselves, instead of mindless automatons.

But I guess you're all right, when a guy like Churchill makes waves (for pointing out the OBVIOUS) he should be labeled, harassed, and persecuted as a traitor...

And i don't even agree with him...

this we'll defend said...

Vrangel - whether the plagiarism charge is true or not isn't the issue at hand. If he did plagiarize of COURSE he should be held accountable, but NOT because of what he said that offended people. Because of the PLAGIARISM. If he drives drunk he should be charged with DUI because he is drunk, not because of what he said. See? They aren't related topics.

So if Ward Churchill is punished for plagiarism or not, the issue being discussed is the criticism and calls for his removal due to what he wrote, not due to plagiarism or lack of a badly needed haircut.

That is the "pesky reality."

I wonder if he would be charged with plagiarism if he hadn't said something that pissed people off.

Not that Churchill is a great man like Scott Ritter, but I remember that after Ritter spoke out and said it was unlikely Saddam had any WMDs (which of course was true) that he was shortly thereafter accused of being a pedophile, of being in the pay of Saddam, etc. That conviently shifted the discussion from the facts of WMDs to whether Ritter was a Michael Jackson wanna-be. So now Churchill is accused I would be willing to consider him innocent until proven guilty.

And, like Jamie, I don't even agree with Churchill.

vrangel said...

I don't care what he wrote as long as it's not stolen.

Jamie said...

I don't want to go on to long on this subject, I could write for 10 pages.

I find this to be the most dangerous time for intellectuals, political pundits, political commentary etc. Other recent attacks and results:

Bill Maher - Show cancelled
Dennis Miller - Show Cancelled, sold out and became a right wing hack (do you blame him?)
Phil Donahue - Show Cancelled
Tim Robbins - Life threatened, appearences cancelled (that didn't have anything to do with politcs, just events owned by the right)
Noam Chomsky - Called a Nazi and Al Qaeda apologist, liar etc..
Scott Ritter - See this blog
Howard Dean - Labeled a nut case
Dan Rather - Forced into retirement
Michael Moore - Film dropped by Disney, Disney shoots counter film "America's Heart Land'

Now these are just the obvious examples of all the people who were not for the war in Iraq, or were critical of US foreign policy or just did a story on bush that was negative.

Obvious political suicide and career suicide...

Are we not seeing a pattern, regardless if you are either left or right. If these recent allegations are true or even regardless if they are true or not why are they trying to change state legislature on tenure in colorado, trying to discredit his background, Governor Owens trying to de-fund ethnic studies...

*cough* McCarthyism *cough*

while some and most will recover from this kind of "blacklist" doesn't that speak more to CHURCHILL's credibility than those trying to persecute him?

vrangel said...

Its not uncommon for high profile public figures to answer for what they did/didn't even 30 years ago.

All we know so far is :
"...the investigation substantiated her allegations ... "

Now its up to him to comment on that. Like , you know, plead not guilty or something.
If he doesn't say anything I'd have to assume he did it. And in my mind its a firing offense.

this we'll defend said...

Vrangel - great (and scary) list. I think you are exactly correct. But I will deny it when we are both in the "re-education camp."

Say it with me: I love Big Brother. I love Big Brother. I love Big....

Jamie said...

so "in the opinion" of her "legal counsel" she is right...puhlease...

Thats in the why is that not scrutinized? If every little thing he says is up for debate, why are the allegations falling so smoothly? Did no one here learn from Ritter?

Again I ask, why are they trying to change state legislature on tenure in colorado, trying to discredit his background, Governor Owens trying to de-fund ethnic studies?

Why are these points missing from the debate?

Its funny, everytime I ask that, everyone has the same response:

why are you apologizing for the terrorists?"


vrangel said...

I am patiently waiting for his statement on the subject.

vrangel said...

I don't know why lefties keep defending all kind of creeps even if it hurts them.
Remember how Republicans cut loose Newt, Livingston, Lott ...
No wonder they keep winning elections.

On a lighter note I've read CB in Esquire and its good stuff. Can't wait for the book. :)

Jamie said...

I don't understand why "righties" lack any real perspective. I don't understand why "righties" find excuses for every horrendous act committed by this administration. Celebrating an election that took the lives of 100,000 innocent Iraqi's you turn around and say words like "collateral damage" and "inaccurate data set", yeah well, maybe if the administration would do body counts, but they don't according to general tommy franks. But what’s deplorable to you? What number is acceptable? 20,000? 30,000? 40,000?

Wolfowitz, Rummy, ignoring warnings that the troop level deployed to Baghdad wasn't going to be enough, and using Panama as the litmus test, mass looting and chaos was easily predicted. And what’s the excuse? "Free people are free to commit crimes" - Rummy

Ignoring an uprising after the gulf war and standing by WATCHING Saddam slaughter the Shiites. What’s the excuse? The mission was never to oust Saddam...

I guess neither were the Iraqi people, what’s the estimate there? 200,000+ killed, oops I mean, collateral damage...

Calling T. Kennedy a loony lefty because he said the war in Iraq was based on lies, after we all found out he was correct, when asked if the collateral positive effects (which were NEVER the primary reason for invasion, according to the Bushies themselves) when asked he replied, "yes, they are positive" and you dare call him a flip-flopper....and an example of how bush was “right”…hahaha

The war drawing the biggest protests the world has ever seen goes unchecked by the right, because they are all hippy loving loony lefties?

Protesters infiltrate the RNC and have the crap beat out of them. Excuse. They weren’t supposed to be there…so much for democrazy…

It’s interesting really. A guy like Churchill's only crime here was a sentence and he has to pay the ultimate price from you loony rightwing hack nutjobs. But no accountability goes to the man holding office now…

Get some perspective

Don't you have some roid raging baseball players to lock up?? Victimless crimes seem the priority of choice there.

1138 said...

vrangle seems to support the idea that everyone is entitled to an opinion, as long as it agrees with his.

The investigation of Churchill is solely based on getting him for expressing an opinion htat drew attention, not anything to do with plagiarized another professor's work.

The whole exercise is disgusting and harmful, both Summers and Churchill.

The voices of liberty being snuffed out, one by one, two by two, millions by millions. Is this America?

vrangel said...

Yeah, yeah, voice of liberty being snuffed out...they are out to get him ... freedom of expression...

So much melodramatic posturing in defense of / trying to draw attention from... plagiarizm.
As I said earlier I don't care what he said or wrote as long as its not stolen from fellow professor next door.

By the way he still haven't commented on a subject. If he did please post a link.

Jamie said...

ugh, sorry for the same post 5x twd, blogger has problems

this we'll defend said...

happens to the best of us, Jamie.

For some reason the trash cans that used to be there are gone and I can't delete the repeats. I will when and if they reappear.

Peter V said...

TWD saw your comment over at "365 and a wake up". As I have stated previously when you comment on the military you speak with pride and respect. I enjoy reading what you have to say.

Your constant attacks on the conservative / republican evil empire are painfully boring.

To your post. Freedom of speech does not imply freedom from the consequences for what is said. You're a lawyer you know AND understand that.

Larry Summers is suffering the consequences of his free speech as is Ward Churchhilll. The Dixie Chicks suffered the consequences of their free speech and didn't have the courage of their convictions to take the heat.

Riddle me; why are there more lefty academics defending Ward then Larry?

this we'll defend said...

Peter V, thanks. I will try to rant less. yes I believe Bush is a threat to the long-term survival of our republic. And yes it can be very boring.

As to why "lefties" are defending Ward more than Summers:

1) I hadn't heard that. BUT, assuming it is true,

2) Summers questioning poses much more of a threat to those who disagree with him than Ward. Without even addressing whether Summers or Ward made sense in their comments (which, sadly, few reporters have) the fact is that a Harvard president has more of an impact than some guy nobody has ever heard of out in colorado, who is pretty much looked upon as an extremist already. It doesn't make news when a drunk gets drunk. It sure as hell does when the preacher gets drunk. The "lefties" you claim are attacking Summers were the ones most threatened by what he said. They are also less likely to defend him. Those defending Ward aren't threatened by what he said, they probably don't mind admitting that his leap from critizing Enron-type crony capitalists to equating victims of 9/11 as unwitting servants of evil who deserved death was really, really stupid. They feel he should be allowed to question, even to the point of questioning sacred cows. And so he should.

But so should Summers, even if the sacred cow he is questioning is one of my own.

One sacred cow that needs questioning is the "left v right" false dichotomy people seem stuck in today. Fact is, when facts change I change my mind. Take capitalism for instance. The typical view of "lefty" positions is that they are closet commies who hate big business. The fact is that too much disdain for profit leads everyone to be poorer. The history of the world shows us that the profit motive can improve everyone's standard of living. The typical view of the "right-winger" position is that they are closet fascists who hate the little guy and care only for profit. The fact is that too much focus on profit leads everyone to be poorer. The history of the world shows us that the profit motive can destroy the standard of living of most people and empower a vicious aristocracy that abuses the powerless.

So if I want the SEC to prevent insider trading, am I a lefty? If I want the SEC to tread softly and carefully, am I a righty? Isn't it possible that sometimes, in some cases, the left has the better position, and vice versa?

Bigandmean said...

Summers got in trouble for daring to suggest that it would be intellectually honest to have a dialogue on a subject that many on the left do not allow to be open for discussion.

Churchill is in trouble because he's a fraud with a mean streak and a bad haircut.

And Jamie, TV shows get canceled because they lose viewers. There was no conspriacy to deny free speech to Bill Maher. Millions of people didn't like what he said and stopped watching him. Millions thought that what the Dixie Chicks did was rude and thoughtless and stopped buying their music. Rather was shown the door because he used forged documents - a fact that he could have ascertained quickly had he used journalistic standards of the level of the local junior high school jornalism club AND he was in third place in a three horse race.

As to Churchill, your using his admission to being "less than through and quite possibly wrong about a number of things" as proof that he is not guilty of being less than through and quite possibly wrong about a number of things is interesting.

Jamie said...

"Churchill is in trouble because he's a fraud with a mean streak and a bad haircut."

now who is the one being intellectually dishonest?

That’s rich

There was no viewer ship lost with Bill Maher’s statement, it had NOTHING to do with ratings and EVERYTHING to do with his opinion.

If you think being “Dixie Chicked” was their own fault you should consider ABC refusing to play their music, why? well, just look at their roster of right wing hack talk shows.

Ward Churchill is going through the same. The right vilifying him, as they do with anyone with a strong opinion not in line with the Washington consensus. That’s the point. That list is FACT, the attacks on Churchill, Schiavo's husband et al, are a continuing erosion of your civil liberties, perhaps which, you never really had…because the burden of proof doesn’t apply to the people they criticize so much as it does to people who have an opposite opinion to Washington Consensus….

And the public (baaaaa) eats it up, because you control the debate with all of your hacks you send out with their scripts

The interesting part of all this is, the people who are critical of the Washington Consensus are the ones usually having to fight through fundamentalist dogma and political hackery, and yet, THEY are the ones labeled as extreme….

Isn’t it all just so interesting…

And sorry to rain on YOUR political hackery and the whole “GOTCHA” liberal bias bs, but the Rather documents were never proven to be fabricated and has been judged as NOT a liberally biased piece, AND the story was TRUE, AND still screaming Gotcha is kind of a prefect example of how uninformed most are here who formulate opinion based on political hackery, instead of using FACTS...and please, it was Rathers producer that was hasty...

(i hope this posted ok, blogger gave me issues again, and if it comes out twice sorry TWD...)

Jamie said...

To further this debate, if anyone is interested, you can view a Fifth Estate story online about the radically divided political commentary in the US.

heres the link

The most interesting part of the story, that applies to our disscusion here is the fact that CBS, Dan Rather, does a story on Social Security with a totally right-wing biased piece...

Anne Coulter makes a fool of herself, Al Franken cries, if nothing else, its entertaining.