An Exercise in Selective Offense-Taking
Anyone looking for a reason to support Islamofascist Awareness Week need look no further than to the fact that James Watson has been suspended for being racist.
Ok - but before I go on, the Rules of Commentary© require that I unequivocally declare my opposition to racism in hyperbolic terms - preferably including the words "reprehensible," "despicable" and/or "disgusting." So I would just like to say from the bottom of my heart that racism is a blight on modern society, and, um, it has, like, no place in the modern world, and it's really reprehensible and disgusting and that I in no way condone Dr. Watson's ... oh, what's the word? ... ignorant! (right! whew) ... opinions about Africans. May his rotting corpse hang from a tree ... or something.
Anyway - he's apparently been suspended from his genetics lab, where he's worked for the last 35 years - some of that time in the capacity of director. And this for making a racist statement or two in public.
It's pretty clear that one of three things is going on here. Either the lab has long been dissatisfied with Dr. Watson's performance and is using this as an excuse to rid themselves of a scab who would otherwise have been hard to fire, or else he really is being fired for expressing the wrong political opinions in public, or else the lab is genuinely concerned that Dr. Watson's opinions - which, after all, he peppers with references to Genetics, which is meant to be his specialty - will be taken as its research conclusions and thus damage its scientific reputation.
All three are plausible. And crucially, whichever of the three it happens to be, it's a good reason to hold an Islamofascist awareness week. Let me explain.
Julio Pino still has a job. Far from suspending him for supporting a backward religion that wants to kill Jews and Homosexuals and keep women at home having babies rather than participating in public society, Kent State has consistently stood by Dr.(?) Pino's right to express himself - regardless of the content of his speech. That, they say, is what free speech is all about.
And so it is.
Neither has Nicholas de Genova been fired. This is the (untenured) assistant professor at Columbia who wants the US Army to suffer "a million Mogadishus." See - Mr. de Genova thinks it's cool when American soldiers die. Lee Bolinger did the obligatory by calling this statement "outrageous," but of course de Genova was never in danger of losing his job. Columbia University also believes in free speech.
And then there's dear ol Ward Churchill. This is the "little Eichmanns" guy - you know, the faux "indian" former head of the University of Colorado's Ethnic Studies Department - tenured without a PhD. He thinks that just going to work in the Trade Center makes you guilty of a Crime Against Humanity and therefore a legitimate target for radical Islamic attacks. He was eventually fired, but only after 4 years of sstained pressure, and then only because his copious plagiarizing had been exposed in the press.
All three of these people said things easily as offensive as what James Watson said. All three of them were held up as "victims" of vicious "attacks on free speech."
Well, well. So free speech protects openly wishing for murder, but making the wrong kind of scientific suggestion (one which can be tested and easily debunked in public, one hastens to add) is beyond the pale?
Clearly there's a double standard at work here. Dr. Watson's racism is offensive, no question about it. But then, so is Dr. Pino's pro-Jihadism. So is de Genova's treason. And so is Ward Churchill's very existence.
In all of these cases, the universities in question probably should have been looking for an excuse to fire the individuals. In all of these cases, the universities in question probably should have been worried about the potential damage to their reputations. And certainly in all of these cases the content of the speech was at least as offensive as Dr. Watson's. Watson is, after all, not proposing that we kill black people, or enslave them, or even that we cut off aid to Africa. All he was really saying was that we need to give aid to Africa in an even more condescending way than we're doing it now. Offensive? Certainly. But forgive me for finding it a tad less offensive than openly praising terrorist attacks that have claimed actual innocent victims as part of a greater goal of rolling back western civilization.
My proposed solution is that Dr. Watson should keep his job. As should Drs. Pino and de Genova - not that they were ever in danger of losing theirs. (I support firing Ward Churchill because his promotions were suspicious and he was, after all, a plagiarist. Plagiarism - a form of fraud - is a proper reason to fire an academic - much the same way you fire anyone who lied on their resume.) And I further propose that all the cowards in England and Scotland who cancelled Dr. Watson's lectures on account of his not being up to scruff on political correctness should invite him back and face him. After all, if they thought he had nothing useful to say, why did they invite him in the first place? And I further propose that people expose Dr. Watson for the racist he apparently is. And of course I have no problem with public denounciations of racism. Like every Libertarian, racism is anathema to me, as it is nothing but another form of collectivism at diametric odds with our individualist political philosophy.
But you know what else is anathema to me? Islam. Especially the violent "lets go back to the Stone Age" Taliban type. So I really don't see what's so wrong with publicly denouncing that as well. If Dr. Watson's racism is offensive, then so are the views of those who want to force oppression of gays and women and Jews and generally anyone who doesn't share their vivid and twisted imagination. And if we have time to make quick work of the one, then I think we have time to make quick work of the other.
This is a double standard, and a pretty frightening one. I don't have very high expectations of "Islamofascism Awareness Week," but if it can hold up the mirror a bit and let academia take a look at its double standards it will have done something useful. Hopefully then academics can start approximating something like real commitment to free speech - i.e. not the current selective commitment to only protecting certain kinds of free speech on a wholly irrational basis. It's very simple: if what Pino and de Genova say is not worth a firing (and it's not), then what Dr. Watson says isn't worth a firing either.
Now - I wonder how long it takes IDS to come out with something condemning Dr. Watson, and thereby completely missing the point, as usual?