Controversial Instructor Kevin Barrett believes the U.S. government was a conspirator in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
He lives for editorials like this one because he believes the ink and digital space will spotlight his name and the shock-and-awe of his contrary views on an American nightmare.
But Barrett, a University of Wisconsin-Madison religion instructor, isn't really getting a credibility-booster or billing any greater in this newspaper than he'll get when he comes to the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh on Oct. 26, a guest of the Campus Greens.
Barrett should not be met at the borders of Oshkosh or campus by a police blockade or ornery protest.
Nor will taxpayer-funded, armored limos rush him and his opinions to a campus red carpet gala.
He is a part-time instructor with a theory or two on 9/11.
Some find his ideas fascinating. Others think they are fascinating bunk.
Ultimately, his ideas aren't worth even spare change in the marketplace of ideas.
What is honorable about a university like UWO is what has long been honorable about all Wisconsin universities: Students and professors keep doors and minds open. They are willing to hear people out. And they are willing to use their smarts, statistics or science to call a phony a phony.
That's the definition of academic freedom.
Barrett's views made him a target by shoe-thumping state legislators calling for his firing. He expects to catch a bit of a screening of the 9/11 conspiracy-theory film "Loose Change 2" on Oct. 26 and then, according to early plans, discuss academic freedom.
Unfortunately, those who might consider Barrett unqualified or dead wrong on 9/11 seem more inclined to let him control the discussion.
Academia seems hesitant to dissect and destroy his theory.
Maybe it's because so many find professors and students find Barrett's views, as UWO Chancellor Richard Wells personally labeled them, "nonsensical."
Maybe professors and students don't care to "waste their time" challenging what they consider poorly supported paranoia.
Maybe some fear a face off – much like this editorial might – would only give the 9/11 conspiracy crowd more words to distort and weave into their web.
But it sure would be heartening if the academic community we rely on to advance human thinking, to cure illnesses and to make the discoveries that shape the future would spend a little time on Oct. 26 soundly stomping Barrett's 9/11 suppositions.
Not because they want to stifle academic freedom. But because they see too many holes in his theory to count.
Rather than read headlines like "9/11 conspiracy prof speaks at UWO," wouldn't folks near and far love to see one like "UWO profs outwit 9/11 conspiracy prof?"
The Final Thought: Controversial UW-Madison Professor Kevin Barrett will not and should not be met at the borders of Oshkosh with resistance when he arrives for a speech on academic freedom on Oct. 26. Nor should the community or university roll out any red carpets.