Sorry for the lengthy, unplanned hiatus. I’d attribute our blog silence to other commitments (it is midterm season after all), laziness, and the fact that, as Obama’s election seems ever more imminent, following, covering, and writing about the news gets increasingly dreary.
With all of my apologies and excuses out of the way, I’d like to dive right in with a story which was brought to my attention by Toy Beeninga (with an assist by Taylor Holgate). In late September, a group of academics drafted a joint statement in support of William Ayers. Last I checked, 3,247 “friends and supporters of Bill Ayers” had signed the statement, endorsing its message (That number is probably inflated, though. An extremely cursory scan through the list revealed some unlikely signers, such as conservative talk-radio host Mark Levin, supposedly the1,232th signer). According to my source, the following UNC professors and TAs endorsed the statement: Lynda Stone, Amy Charpentier, Kathleen M. Brown, Jennifer Jone, Dr. Maria DeGuzman, Alan Tom, J. Anderson, and Ashley Lucas. You can access (and co-sign, if you’d like) the statement here.
I’ll just briefly summarize the salient points (the argument descends into self-parody rather quickly, so I feel no need to go out of my way to mock the Ayers allies). The letter calls the “character assassination and slander of Bill Ayers” a “slanderous McCartyism” and takes umbrage at the Right’s characterizations of Ayers. Yes- How dare the crypto-Nazis on the Right call Ayers, who is an unrepentant terrorist, “an unrepentant terrorist?” Nowadays, Ayers is a super-swell guy. He is a “valued faculty member” of the University of Illinois at Chicago who “has taught, advised, mentored, and supported hundreds of undergraduate, Masters and Ph.D. students.” Things that Ayers did 40 years ago are “history.” After all, can anyone really be considered guilty of a crime after he commits that crime?!? And, well, speaking of that whole “terrorism” thing, my gosh- Ayers didn’t really do anything that these 3,247 signers would condemn. Ayers just “participated passionately in the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s, as did hundreds of thousands of Americans,” that’s all. He simply protested, precisely “as did hundreds of thousands of Americans.”
These attacks on Ayers are not only offensive to such a respectable person, though. Apparently, they are also destroying our society. In the words of the document, brandishing Ayers about “casts a chill over free speech and inquiry and the spirit of democracy.” Essentially, forming a stigma against those who try to kill Americans “threaten(s) schools as places of compassion, imagination, curiosity, and free thought” because forming such a stigma serves as a warning to “anyone who voices perspectives and advances questions that challenge orthodoxy.” So, basically, if you sign the statement, you’re helping to save democracy.
Frankly, I can’t feign surprise at any of the … ahem, logic of this letter. Nonetheless, it does reveal the extent of the versatility of academia’s colossal fatuousness.