It's hard to tell whether to fear or mock the recent call of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for a revival of the House Un-American Activities Committee, or HUAC, as it was commonly called. It's unlikely that a new committee will storm through the nation's campuses in quite the same way the original did. The end of the Cold War has obviously mitigated the fear of Communism that powered HUAC's investigations. Still, the rhetoric of Gingrich and his fellow Islamophobes contains enough parallels to the witch hunts of the early Cold War to arouse concern about an intensification of similarly repressive activities. And this time around, the academy could well be the main victim.
To a certain extent, it already has, hounding the only academic group that Gingrich specifically identified as having contributed to terrorism: those who "are funded by countries like Saudi Arabia." Since it is unlikely that Gingrich was referring to petroleum geologists, we can assume that his new HUAC would be looking at professors in Middle Eastern studies and related fields. No surprise there. Scholars who study the Islamic world have been under attack for years. Their connections to that tumultuous region have rendered them singularly vulnerable to outsiders with their own agendas, especially with regard to the intractable Israel-Palestine conflict.
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