You may remember Niall Ferguson from such incidents as “making isolated spontaneous homophobic comments that he’s also been committing to print for decades.” Now that he’s been criticized for his attacks on Keynes — which were not merely gay-baiting but involved egregious misreadings of his work— he wishes to note that even when he’s acting as a buffoonish sixth-rate reactionary pundit he’s also a Serious Scholar, so you filthy unnamed “bloggers” should show some respect.
The first part of the argument is a definitive use of the tu quoque fallacy — Keynes also made some objectionable remarks, neener neener! Since nobody is saying that Keynes should be beyond any criticism (as opposed to criticism that botches his work or attacks him based on his sexuality), this is just an irrelevant diversion. Then, the Great Scholar engages in some classic whining:
What the self-appointed speech police of the blogosphere forget is that to err occasionally is an integral part of the learning process. And one of the things I learnt from my stupidity last week is that those who seek to demonize error, rather than forgive it, are among the most insidious enemies of academic freedom.
This is absolutely pathetic stuff. Arguing that somebody should be fired for expressing political views you disagree with is a threat to academic freedom. Criticizing academics when they say foolish things, or calling gay-baiting what it is, does not make one an enemy of academic freedom. Given how remarkably shoddy Ferguson’s work in pundit mode is I can understand why he wants to invent a right to be exempt from any criticism he doesn’t like, but academic freedom means pretty much the opposite of what he’s pretending to think it means.