Jewish World Review Feb. 17, 2005/ 8 Adar I, 5765
Not Crazy Horse, just Crazy
University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill has written that "unquestionably, America has earned" the attack of 9/11. He calls the attack itself a result of "gallant sacrifices of the combat teams." That the "combat teams" killed only 3,000 Americans, he says, show they were not "unreasonable or vindictive." He says that in order to even the score with America, Muslim terrorists "would, at a minimum, have to blow up about 300,000 more buildings and kill something on the order of 7.5 million people."
To grasp the current state of higher education in America, consider that if Churchill is at any risk at all of being fired, it is only because he smokes.
Churchill poses as a radical living on the edge, supremely confident that he is protected by tenure from being fired. College professors are the only people in America who assume they can't be fired for what they say.
Tenure was supposed to create an atmosphere of open debate and inquiry, but instead has created havens for talentless cowards who want to be insulated from life.
Rather than fostering a climate of open inquiry, college campuses have become fascist colonies of anti-American hate speech, hypersensitivity, speech codes, banned words and prohibited scientific inquiry.
Even liberals don't try to defend Churchill on grounds that he is Galileo pursuing an abstract search for the truth. They simply invoke "free speech," like a deus ex machina to end all discussion. Like the words "diverse" and "tolerance," "free speech" means nothing but: "Shut up, we win." It's free speech (for liberals), diversity (of liberals) and tolerance (toward liberals).
Ironically, it is precisely because Churchill is paid by the taxpayers that "free speech" is implicated at all. The Constitution has nothing to say about the private sector firing employees for their speech. That's why you don't see Bill Maher on ABC anymore. Other well-known people who have been punished by their employers for their "free speech" include Al Campanis, Jimmy Breslin, Rush Limbaugh, Jimmy the Greek and Andy Rooney.
In fact, the Constitution says nothing about state governments firing employees for their speech: The First Amendment clearly says, "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech." Firing Ward Churchill is a pseudo-problem caused by modern constitutional law, which willy-nilly applies the Bill of Rights to the states including the one amendment that clearly refers only to "Congress." (Liberals love to go around blustering "'no law' means 'no law'!" But apparently "Congress" doesn't mean "Congress.")
Even accepting the modern notion that the First Amendment applies to state governments, the Supreme Court has distinguished between the government as sovereign and the government as employer. The government is extremely limited in its ability to regulate the speech of private citizens, but not so limited in regulating the speech of its own employees.
So the First Amendment and "free speech" are really red herrings when it comes to whether Ward Churchill can be fired. Even state universities will not run afoul of the Constitution for firing a professor who is incapable of doing his job because he is a lunatic, an incompetent or an idiot and those determinations would obviously turn on the professor's "speech."
If a math professor's "speech" consisted of insisting that 2 plus 2 equals 5, or an astrophysicist's "speech" was to claim that the moon is made of Swiss cheese, or a history professor's "speech" consisted of rants about the racial inferiority of the ns, each one of them could be fired by a state university without running afoul of the constitution.
Just because we don't have bright lines for determining what speech can constitute a firing offense, doesn't mean there are no lines at all. If Churchill hasn't crossed them, we are admitting that almost nothing will debase and disgrace the office of professor (except, you know, suggesting that there might be innate differences in the mathematical abilities of men and women).
In addition to calling Americans murdered on 9/11 "little Eichmanns," Churchill has said:
I forgot Auschwitz had a casino.
If Ward Churchill can be a college professor, what's David Duke waiting for?
The whole idea behind free speech is that in a marketplace of ideas, the truth will prevail. But liberals believe there is no such thing as truth and no idea can ever be false (unless it makes feminists cry, such as the idea that there are innate differences between men and women). Liberals are so enamored with the process of free speech that they have forgotten about the goal.
Faced with a professor who is a screaming lunatic, they retreat to, "Yes, but academic freedom, tenure, free speech, blah, blah," and their little liberal minds go into autopilot with all the slogans.
Why is it, again, that we are so committed to never, ever firing professors for their speech? Because we can't trust state officials to draw any lines at all here? Because ... because ... because they might start with crackpots like Ward Churchill but soon liberals would be endangered? Liberals don't think there is any conceivable line between them and Churchill? Ipse dixit.
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JWR contributor Ann Coulter is the author of, most recently, "How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must) : The World According to Ann Coulter". (Sales help fund JWR.)