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Jewish World Review Oct. 25, 2001 / 9 Mar-Cheshvan, 5761

Eileen Ciesla

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Beware of peaceniks bearing candles -- Wondering what became of the traveling anti-globalization circus? They're rehearsing a new act. Only last month, many in the newly-minted "give peace a chance crowd" were gearing up to give violence another go at the since-cancelled IMF meetings in Washington D.C.

The die-hards who gathered in Washington on September 28th hadn't lost the faith, just some steam. What does a protest-less protestor do in the wake of the attacks? Regroup, retool the rhetoric and reschedule the rallies.

Congregating at Luther Place Memorial Church for two days of pre-rally teach-ins many fretted that their cause had been damaged.

"I saw the movement losing its infrastructure as the two towers collapsed," said one protestor, offering the first of many self-absorbed reflections.

With Chomsky-esque sangfroid, a few of the academic presenters spoke of events abstractly while noting that the moment was "an opportunity to show the evil of US foreign policy."

"I hope we don't get side-tracked. People were starting to listen to us," said a veteran of the April 16th demonstrations.

"Hi. I'm Mille. I'm looking for ways to use this crisis to bring down capitalism. Let's focus on the real enemies: the WTO and the IMF,"

When asked if afraid of future attacks, a Leninist from the Revolutionary Workers' Party responded, "The bigger terror is letting the US military kill people around the globe. We're just getting a taste of what the US has been doing for years."

Newspeak was abundant, "Zionism is anti-Semitism and a response to anti-Semitism," One man added without irony, "We need to watch the media's use of Orwellian language, how they define words like "terrorist", "attack", "revenge", and "justice".

"Yeah," said a zoned and stoned kid in baggy pants and matted goatee, "What bothered me about Bush's speech was that he said these acts weren't politically motivated. He called them evil. And said these people hate freedom. That's stereotyping those people."

"Those people" presumably refers to the 19 hijackers who murdered 6000 of his countrymen, putting a hitch in his protest plans.

There was also some paranoia, "I'm scared. The government is seizing the files of Arab students. We're next."

The campus commies shouldn't panic. The investigation is going after foreign terrorist cells, not university cantons of communism. They are safe to recycle the worst ideas of history. Their professors are free to continue weaving pernicious mythologies for distilment into mantra.

In this hour, such anti-American sentiments add to our sense of trespass that the terrorists used our open society against us. But, it shouldn't shock us. For years, we have given tenure, titles of distinction and public platforms to their academic apologists.

The anti-globalization protestors are the most recent result of their tutelage. Professing a hatred for America, capitalism and the West, they believe the US is the most corrupt system in history. They fear US military reprisal.

They're much like another group of students whose faces fill the FBI's website. The main difference is that the graduates of Osama bin Laden's training camps have been radicalized by a different doctrine.

There is another distinction. Our homegrown radicals are too fat from the fruits of capitalism to go as far as their comrades in barbarism. Their ideology is too scattered and their lives too sweet. One wonders how many activists would surrender politics to self-preservation should the debris land on their doorstep.

And just like the terrorists, academic activists present multiple tests to our institutions. Consider the case of Sami Al-Arian, University of Florida professor, who has made pro-jihad statements for years. He says there's nothing we can do to stop him. This is America and he has a right to free speech.

Al-Arian worries us, but his American colleagues who incite students while claiming academic freedom give us no pause.

Perhaps, it is time to remind them academic freedom is not a Constitutional right but a professional privilege.

John Silber, former President of Boston University, has noted that before the Cultural Revolution academic freedom was defined as, "immunity for what is said and done by dedicated, thoughtful, conscientious scholars in pursuit of the truth or the truest account."

Today, "it entails an immunity for whatever is said or done, responsibly or carelessly, within or without the walls of academic freedom by persons unconcerned for the truth; who, reckless, incompetent, frivolous or even malevolent, promulgate ideas for which they can claim no expertise, or even commit deeds for which they can claim no sanction of law."

Sibler's definition characterizes most remarks of the professors at the People's Summit teach-in.

Their captive undergrad audience presents us with a challenge. Terrorists will hide behind immigration laws. Tenured traitors will cower behind academic freedom while radicalizing their students: the foul-weather peaceniks now ducking for cover among Quakers and candles. Ridding our society of terrorists means asking another question. What do we do about their defenders: our domestic barbarians who paralyze entire cities every time the IMF is in town?

Begin by exposing their vacuity and duplicity. Then, cut them off at the source. Flunk them and fire their professors. Re-institute the scholarly search for truth in our universities. Deny the ruling academic elite their platform, funding and prestige. And send back the anti-war Trojan horse they rode in on.

Eileen Ciesla is the 2001-2002 Warren Brookes Journalism Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington D.C.-based public policy organization. Comment by clicking here.


© 2001, Eileen Ciesla