I am shocked by the growing number of academics, among them many of my friends, perfectly willing to burn books. They don’t even try to hide it anymore because support for censorship these days attracts a chorus of applause from fellow book burners. “THOSE ARE THE WRONG IDEAS,” they scream. “THEY ARE BEYOND DISCUSSION,” they yell. “THOSE IDEAS ARE VIOLENCE!”
Violence, you say? Funny you should mention that. In 2017, Bruce Gilley, a Professor of Political Science at Portland State University, published a peer reviewed articled in Third World Quarterly provocatively entitled, “The case for colonialism.”
If you’d like to read the article, feel free to view it at:
Ooops! Never mind! You can’t view the article anymore because it has been withdrawn. Normally, when an article is withdrawn, the first thought that comes to mind is academic misconduct. But, no, there was no evidence at all of any misconduct. In fact, the publisher, Taylor & Francis, conducted a thorough investigation and found that the article underwent double-blind peer review “in line with the journal’s editorial policy.”
Alas, the reason the article was retracted is that the editor of the journal has “received serious and credible threats of personal violence. These threats are linked to the publication of this essay.”
A year later, Amardo Rodriguez, a professor at Syracuse University, published a rebuttal against Gilley’s essay. Rodriguez’s response is aptly entitled, “A case against colonialism.” If you’d like to read the rebuttal, you can view it here:
Perhaps not surprisingly, this article has not been withdrawn as yet, and no threats were made to the editor, nor to the author.
I’m not going to engage in a debate on the merits or drawbacks of colonialism. This isn’t my area of specialization, so I’m not about to wade into a debate over which I have no ability to speak with authority. But I am going to say this: anyone who levels threats of violence to censor ideas should be ashamed of themselves. You may see yourself as some kind of valiant antifa hero, but you’re just an authoritarian tyrant, nothing more, nothing less. You decry the violence of ideas in one breath whilst threatening physical violence in the next.
“Anyone who levels threats of violence to censor ideas should be ashamed of themselves. You may see yourself as some kind of valiant antifa hero, but you’re just an authoritarian tyrant.”
Social psychology easily explains your behavior. You dehumanize members of the out-group to the point at which violence is justified against them. You censor their ideas because they are “dangerous.” If this sounds like familiar behavior to you, it should be. Fascists throughout history have done just that. Ironic, isn’t it?
The next time anyone tells you that “there’s no free speech problem in academia,” share this article with them. There absolutely is a free speech problem in academia, and it’s only getting worse.
Professor Andrew R. Timming
This article is published under a Creative Commons 4.0 License.