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Torture Advocate Decries, Joins Campaign to Suppress “Immoral” Political Discourse

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We’ve already discussed the campaign to suppress political speech at Brooklyn College. Dershowitz’s argument now is that the event could be acceptable…if it included him:

“The event shouldn’t be cancelled, but the political science department should withdraw it’s [sic] support, or alternatively the political science department should invite me or someone else that represents an opposing point of view and give equal endorsement.”

Here’s a question that comes immediately to mind: Does Dershowitz believe that there should be a counterpoint when he expresses his views, including his grotesquely immoral defenses of torture? Funny thing:

It’s odder still when Brooklyn College associate professor of political science Corey Robin notes that Dershowitz has delivered the college’s Konefsky Lecture. It’s a lecture decided on and invited by the political science department, which has included multiple political speakers before, and, more to the point, it is offered without counterpoint, entirely alone.

[…]

Alan Dershowitz is so committed to both an open two-sided dialogue and an open vigorous debate on torture that he gave a 2008 Brooklyn College lecture in which he discussed torture at length. Alone.

The Brooklyn College panel might be great; it might be a fiasco; it might be confused or embrace propositions we think morally wrong. What it’s not, right now, is worthy of being tied to big-name, galvanic media-friendly words of outrage like “blackballing” and “racism,” while dealing in tropes of academic censorship. But this is par for the course with Dershowitz, the law’s most enduring concern troll. Hypocrisy in defense of claiming victimization or demonizing your opponent is no vice. It’s not even an effort on par with skipping over a puddle. Dershowitz can worry about one’s ability to speak freely before academia after likely burying Norman Finkelstein’s academic career. He can publicly hound a respected jurist and UN commissioner until the man writes a bizarre op-ed retraction utterly disavowed by fellow members of his own commission, ignore the contradictions and declare himself on the side of the angels.

So, apparently, colleges have a moral obligation to have “balanced” panels…in cases where the speakers might disagree with Alan Dershowitz. Hacktacular!

To echo Mobute, to defend the department’s decision to host the BDS panel should not be taken to mean that I’m supportive of BDS. In particular, I think they’re completely and disastrously wrong to advocate an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. (Although you know who else is at best skeptical of boycotting Israeli scholars? Judith Butler, which may suggest that the discussion will be more critical and complex than its critics assume.) But this is beside the point — if BC can invite Alan Dershowitz to defend torture, it can certainly have a discussion critical of Israeli policy that might involve advocating remedies I disagree with. They should be allowed to make their case. And it’s clear that even Dershowitz doesn’t believe that every political speaker has to be balanced with a “counterpoint,” because that would be stupid.

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