Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Just in Case You Didn’t Know…

A previously unknown professor (politically speaking, at least) said some rather offensive statements reflecting the extremity of his political views, and was quickly jumped on by pundits and activists of the opposite political spectrum. The university administration is contemplating what action to take regarding this, and that lone fact has gotten a much larger outpouring of support from critics on his side of the political spectrum about how “politics shouldn’t interfere with academic free speech, no matter how objectionable you might find it”.

I’m sure anyone reading this blog has heard of the fuss involving one professor, but have you heard about the other one?

In one of the greatest alignments of poetic justice in the blogosphere since, well I don’t know what, there are both Ward Churchill and Hans-Hermann Hoppe scandals for the right and left to cry about at the same time. Churchill is the Chairman of American Indian Studies at U. Colorado, and 3 years ago wrote a speech glorifying the attacks on September 11th calling it the murder of “many little Eichmans”, among other things. Responses on the right have ranged from simply nitpicking his resume and claiming he lied and thus can be fired on those grounds, to eliminating his Chair, department, and questioning why academia is politically coerced into making such silly disciplines, to calls for his execution as a traitor (but that’s freepers, and can you blame them?)

Elsewhere, Prof. Hoppe was giving an introductory economics lecture, and labeling many groups into various stereotypical patterns and deducing their future-planning tendencies from that. In particular, homosexuals (because they cannot have children, and because they have more and riskier sexual partners) plan for the future less than heterosexuals. Also very old people don’t plan so much (for various reasons, this doesn’t come up so much). Oh, and many suspect that John Meynard Keynes (the biggest economic lefty out there) was gay, and this theory might explain how short-sighted his “tax and spend” economic theories were. A student was offended, lodged a complaint with the university, which asked that Hoppe explain himself and apologize, who did so in a rather mocking manner, and the student lodged another complaint.

Clearly these cases are pretty different, and the reactions from the various ends of the political spectrum are also different. But any blog you find that only mentions one case (such as conservative / libertarian blogs like EconLog or lefty academic blogs like Left2Right) should give you a definitive marking on where they stand politically if you were ever uncertain. And as much as we may like them (I enjoy both the aforementioned blogs), they should probably be disdained for a little while.

IMHO Edit: To note my personal feelings/snide remarks on these. Churchill is a kook and will certainly lose his Chairmanship, but questioning the academic validity of his department's existence and its use as a field of study because of those comments seems even more spurious and dangerous than just firing the tenured professor himself. I actually desire to defend Hoppe because he made such statements about many groups (like, old people). Being brave and "politically incorrect" should go both ways. But precisely because of that, I disdain Hoppe's defenders. Hoppe is being paraded around more so certain conservatives can complain about pro-gay sensitivities in colleges, and if all his comments as a cold and stereotyping economist were to be circulated in the blogosphere and fundraising community, then the outcries for his defense would quiet very quickly indeed.


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