Ms. Malkin, who believes in free speech as long as she gets to choose the speakers, is euphoric at her success in getting William Ayers disinvited from the University of Nebraska, where he was scheduled to give a talk on his academic speciality, education.
Of course public universities can only resist political pressure so far, and if the President and Chancellor had frankly announced that the talk was being cancelled on political grounds I could feel sorry for them. But instead they announced that it had been cancelled due to “security concerns”: i.e., the “heckler’s veto.” I’m not buying it, and apparently neither is anyone else. And if it were true, it would be even more discreditable; why reward the violent by allowing them to become censors-by-proxy?
So far as I can tell, if any of the Red folks who routinely denounce “political correctness” and speech codes disapprove, they haven’t mentioned it yet. Greta van Susteren of Fox News didn’t even mention the free-speech or free-inquiry issues in her interview with the governor, who openly pressured the university to betray the principles of open discourse.
If any of them does, I’ll gladly give him or her the merited praise.
Footnote Of course there’s no “free speech issue” in the legal, First Amendment sense. The governor couldn’t lawfully keep a private university from offering Ayers a forum, but he was within his legal rights in asking a public institution not to do so. However, a university is built on open inquiry, and a dis-invitation on political grounds is a clear violation of that principle.
Second footnote No, I’m not an apologist for terrorists. Unlike, for example, David Horowitz, who remained affiliated with the Black Panthers – a substantially more murderous group that the Weather Underground, which once invaded the chamber of the California House of Representatives carrying rifles – until the Revolution had failed, and who continues to act on Leninist operational maxims now that he’s decided to change sides, I was against the New Left when it was still New. But Ayers wasn’t asked to talk about firebombing; he was asked to talk about education.
Third footnote Should a university president forbid any invitation to be extended to Michelle Malkin, on the grounds that those who don’t offer tolerance to others shouldn’t get it themselves? Locke would say yes. I think I’d say no, but loud, rude heckling would surely be appropriate.
Update I’m told that FIRE will soon be on the case. Good for them!
Second update As promised, FIRE comes through. Still no defense of free inquiry from anyone to the right of center, so far as I can find.
The Chancellor of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln has issued a statement confirming that the invitation to Ayers was professional rather than political (he was to address a student research conference on qualitative methods) and laying out the case for inviting academic visitors regardless of their political pasts. The statement recites, with apparent sincerity, the story about canceling the visit under the threat of violence rather than under political pressure. I still doubt it’s true, and I still think that if it is true it’s even more discreditable to the campus than a frank admission that the state owns the university and the governor demanded that Ayers be disinvited.