The University of Wisconsin-Madison is dead wrong to allow 9/11 conspiracy believer Kevin Barrett to continue to teach there.
Barrett — along with the fringe group that he founded, the Muslim Jewish Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth — believes and actively promotes that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were planned and executed by the Bush administration to justify a war. Barrett has stated, "There is a real possibility that President Bush will be electrocuted for the murder of 2,500 Americans."
Citing what he says are scientific studies, Barrett claims that the jet fuel fires weren't hot enough to cause the World Trade Center to collapse, and that the Bush administration had rigged the towers to fall. In fact, studies have found that the jet fuel burned so hotly that it destroyed the towers' upper framework supports, and that is exactly what caused each of the upper floors to break free and crash down like dominoes.
The Barrett controversy shouldn't have anything to do with anyone's opinion of President Bush or the war, or of how Bush handled 9/11, or even of the "real" motivations of anyone involved in 9/11 or on either side of this war.
This debate is about whether UW-Madison should allow a teacher to preach his own paranoid delusions from a publicly funded lectern. Barrett's claims are ludicrous and offensive to the extreme. They are the rantings of a politically motivated fringe fanatic, and this fanatic should not be allowed to promote his views as a teacher at a public university.
Barrett is using his privileged position to actively promote his completely unfounded "theory" as being fact. Barrett — and his defenders including the ACLU and UW Board of Regents President David Walsh — are hiding behind "a tradition of academic freedom" to allow Barrett to spew this personal garbage at taxpayer expense and at the unfortunate expense of the university.
Walsh was quoted as saying, "If it's part of the teaching mission; if it's comparing outrageous theories to traditional theories: because, let the people have the facts and the theories and the freedom to discuss it."
What Walsh and other Barrett defenders don't get, is that Barrett's beliefs don't even cut it as theories. Barrett's beliefs are fiction, hogwash.
We do agree that the university, not legislators, should make the final call on whether to boot Barrett. And we hope that legislators won't make UW funding decisions based on this one bad decision, as some have suggested.
But even Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle has said he would have voted differently in the Barrett decision. "It isn't a question so much of academic freedoms," Doyle was quoted as saying. "It's a question of someone who has this totally irrational idea, is this somebody who should be really teaching students at the University of Wisconsin?"
We would give much more credence and leeway to a professor who sincerely wanted to spark classroom debate by offering up different "theories" about the reasons or motivations for 9/11. Such a professor might even include Barrett's "theory," and even invite Barrett himself to speak to students. This newspaper even supported UW-Whitewater's decision to allow controversial Colorado University professor Ward Churchill to voice his highly controversial and offensive 9/11 theories in an open discussion setting on campus.
But it's a whole different game with Barrett. In this case, Barrett himself is the "teacher" in whom we and our students are supposed to place our trust — and our money. And the university is giving this crackpot free license to teach his warped, and frankly insane, view of the "facts" about what happened on that tragic day.
If it were our decision, we would yank Barrett's chain right out of there.