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Welcome To My Life, Taboo


Although Brian Leiter beat me to it, this David Bernstein post is such a remarkable piece of work that I can’t resist piling on.    Angry about the possibility that someone might be criticized (with, properly in my view, no other consequences as far as I can tell) for expressing racist views, he provides a list of people that are not “taboo” in American universities despite their having done bad things or expressed political views that David Bernstein disagrees with.   It’s not surprising that Walt and Mearshimer pop up, but it’s not clear what the point is; like the HLS emailer they’ve been subject to some harsh criticism (some of it, in my view, justified) and haven’t suffered any employment consequences — so what?    But it gets much better — in his list of six examples of how left-wingers can say anything they want, he manages to cite one example where a professor was denied tenure for his political views, and another example where a professor was fired for apparently legitimate reasons, but through a process put in motion only after he had expressed unpopular political views.

In an attempt to skate over this inadvertently convincing demolition of his own argument, Bernstein concedes in nicely Orwellian phrasing that Finklestein and Churchill “don’t teach at elite universities,” but asserts that this doesn’t matter because they  “have plenty of defenders and apologists at such universities.”    This argument is both dumb in principle (I dunno about you, but I’d have to say losing your job trumps having hypothetical “defenders” at unamed “universities”) and fails even on its own terms (who, exactly, has defended Churchill’s comments, as opposed to his right to say them?)    You may wonder at this point if Bernstein applies this ad hoc “losing your job is no big deal” standard to History’s Greatest Martyr, Saint Larry Summers.    Well, you won’t be surprised by the answer.   And the last time I looked, neither Churchill nor Finklestein occupied powerful, highly-compensated positions in the United States government…

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