Introduction from Daniel Pipes: My article "Profs Who Hate America" appeared in the New York Post, 12 November 2002 and prompted a joint response from two of the six professors I named there, which the Los Angeles Times agreed to publish. To make the debate between them and me intelligible to its readers, the Los Angeles Times asked me to reprise my article, which I did – shorter and making a somewhat different point. My article leads, followed by the Foner-Gilmore response.
American universities have turned into hotbeds of opposition, and it's time to take them back.
Take the issue of Iraq. Americans generally focus on the regime's brutal behavior toward its own population and the threat it poses to the outside, while disagreeing over how to respond. Yet ask professors what the problem is, and they are most likely to reply that the United States, not Iraq, is the main menace and that oil, not nukes, is the Bush administration's central concern.
Two professors of history typify this outlook. Eric Foner of Columbia University asserts that a preemptive war against Iraq would take us back "to the notion of the rule of the jungle." He preposterously finds Washington's argument today "exactly the same" as that used by the Japanese to justify their assault on Pearl Harbor.
Glenda Gilmore of Yale University sees U.S. imperialism in Washington's confrontation with Iraq. It's "the first step in Bush's plan to transform our country into an aggressor nation that cannot tolerate opposition." She has also stated: "We have met the enemy, and it is us."
Views like these echo through the campuses, confirming that universities remain, as they have been since the mid-1960s, the most radical, adversarial and alienated major institution in American life.
That's not to suggest censorship; professors have full privileges to freedom of expression. But it does point to the need to raise some difficult questions:
- Why do American academics so readily see their own country as the problem?
- Why do universities hire people who relentlessly apologize for U.S. enemies?
- Why do professors consistently misunderstand the most important challenges facing the country, such as the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Persian Gulf War and now the war on terror?
- What long-term impact does a radicalized and repressive university atmosphere have on students?
The country needs its universities to become more mature, responsible and patriotic. To achieve this change means taking the wayward academy back from the faculty and administrators who now run it.
It's important to remember that universities, built over decades and even centuries, do not belong -- legally, financially or morally -- to the employees who happen to staff them. The latter do not have a right to hijack these vital institutions out of the mainstream of American life.
Outside stakeholders -- board members, alumni, parents of students and, in the case of state institutions, state legislators -- need to start worrying more about politics than about football.
They must take steps to re-create a politically balanced environment, as it was before the 1960s, in which sound scholarship and sound teaching can again take place.
A Fight for Freedom of Speech
Dissent doesn't mean a lack of patriotism
by Eric Foner and Glenda Gilmore
Los Angeles Times
December 27, 2002
We are two of the professors to whom Daniel Pipes refers when he asks: "Why do American academics so often despise their own country while finding excuses for repressive and dangerous regimes?"
Pipes, a self-appointed arbiter of acceptable speech and founder of Campus Watch, recently included us in a list of six "Professors Who Hate America" in a New York publication. Using us as examples of professors who relentlessly oppose their own government, he called for "outsiders" (alumni, state legislators, parents of students and others) to "take steps to ... establish standards for media statements by faculty."
If Pipes were simply displaying a profound misunderstanding of academic freedom, there would be no cause for alarm. But his screed is symptomatic of a broader trend among conservative commentators, who since Sept. 11 have increasingly equated criticism of the Bush administration with lack of patriotism.
William J. Bennett, co-founder of the conservative think tank Empower America, claims in his recent book "Why We Fight" that scholars with whom he disagrees "sow widespread and debilitating confusion" and "weaken the country's resolve." The American Council of Trustees and Alumni, an organization founded in 1995 by Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, that calls on those groups to take a more "active" role in determining what happens on campuses, chastised professors who fail to teach the "truth" that civilization itself "is best exemplified in the West and indeed in America."
Pipes' call for "outsiders" to police the statements of faculty conjures up memories of World War I and the McCarthy era, when critics of the government were jailed and institutions of higher learning dismissed antiwar or "subversive" professors. Historians today consider such episodes shameful anomalies in the history of civil liberties in the United States.
In equating opposition to government policies with hatred of our country, Pipes displays a deep hostility to the essence of a democratic polity: the right to dissent.
What was our sin that unleashed this assault? Our comments appeared in our respective universities' student newspapers opposing the Bush administration's assertion of the right to launch a preemptive war against Iraq.
The same position was voiced by numerous public figures, including members of the first Bush administration, former President Carter and members of Congress. It is the viewpoint of virtually every country in the world, including most of the longtime allies of the United States.
Neither of us offered any "excuse for dangerous and repressive regimes." It is one thing to deem a regime repressive, quite another to believe that the United States has the right to assume the unilateral role of global policeman.
There is little chance that Columbia or Yale, where we teach, would heed the call to allow "outsiders" to dictate what opinions faculty may voice. The danger is that institutions less financially secure and more dependent on legislatures may bend to this gathering threat to freedom of speech.
Eric Foner is a professor of history at Columbia University. Glenda Gilmore is a professor of history at Yale University.