Posted Sunday, April 11, 2004

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Prof Peter N Kirstein warns that the growing censorship of historians and academics suggests a New McCarthyism


The New McCarthyism in Universities

IN the United States, there is a growing incidence of censorship of historians and other academics that suggests a New McCarthyism.

  • Professor Berthold of the University of New Mexico was reprimanded and forced into early retirement for uttering a provocative phrase to his students on September 11, 2001.
  • Professor De Genova of Columbia University, while nobly defended by President Lee Bollinger, is harassed and persecuted by members of Congress and other enemies of free speech for his denunciation of the American invasion of Iraq at a teach-in.
  • Professor Al-Arian of the University of South Florida is fired, in the absence of any conviction, and arrested for "alleged" ties to Islamic Jihad.
  • I was suspended for an antiwar email that denounced the "baby killing tactics of collateral damage."

Daniel Pipes, with his draconian Campus Watch, blacklists and attempts to destroy Middle Eastern specialists who diverge from his virulent form of Zionism.

While I detest and loathe any expressions of racialism or intolerance of cultural and ethnic diversity, and affirm the need for affirmative action and fulfilling the dream of Dr Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, I think many historians, on the right, have also been censored and silenced for offering a sweeping historiographical reassessment of the Holocaust, including aspects of the inhumane environs of the concentration camps.

Regardless of one's opinion of historical realities, the appropriate venue for protest is challenging ideas and offering alternative correctives.

When the debate over historiography or extramural utterances, by either public or academic historians, degenerates into one of personal destruction and censorship, then democracy is diminished and the search for truth is severely attenuated. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, "Sunshine is the best disinfectant." Let ideas be debated and vigorously contested. Books must not be suppressed nor professors silenced or coerced.

Peter N. Kirstein
Professor of History
Saint Xavier University, Chicago


Professor Kirstein's website

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