Written by S. Rainsford
Whenever we see a Professor doing some sort of public nonsense, the defense is always that they have “Academic Freedom.”
It’s a completely incoherent concept. Even the most ardent supporters of “Academic Freedom” must acknowledge that the University administration shouldn’t permit the advocacy of certain ideas from the faculty. Are we to permit eugenicists to publish papers? Fascists to teach courses in the Political Science department? Of course not. The question is then not if we should restrict the study and advocacy of certain topics, but which topics we should permit. What purpose then does “Academic Freedom” serve? In our modern age, it has quite simply become a tool for maintaining an establishment narrative through the protection of political agendas from criticism.
Walter Hussman was right, Nikole Hannah Jones shouldn’t have been offered tenure at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Pulitzer prize notwithstanding, her most notable work is simply an extended opinion piece, and a poor one at that. The historical misrepresentations of the 1619 Project were so egregious that five leading US historians wrote an open letter to the New York Times, saying the work was a “displacement of historical understanding by ideology”, and asking that the newspaper “issue prominent corrections of all the errors and distortions” as well as calling for the “removal of these mistakes from any materials destined for use in schools, as well as in all further publications”. Shoddy scholarship is easily discredited, which is why far-left academics must supplant merit with political activism.
In like manner, “Academic Freedom” must not be used to cover gross subversions of journalistic practice. Professor Jones has said explicitly that “All Journalism is Activism”. As is typical for adherents to Critical Theory, all institutions are to be evaluated on whether they support the oppressive power structure, and for Jones “Most mainstream newspapers reflect power”. When presented by an interviewer with the observation that “detractors say this is an attempt to rewrite American history” Jones’ makes the brazen response “That’s true”, consistent with her assertion that the 1619 Project “explicitly denies objectivity”.
As the Arkansas media giant Walter Hussman noted, if Jones is opposed to the ideals of journalistic integrity, “I’m going to wonder why did she want to go to work at a journalism school where she’s opposed to the core values of the school”. I’ll remind the reader that Hussman’s name is on the building, and for good reason. The Hussman family has been in newspapers since 1909, expanding in recent decades into radio and television to become a massive media conglomerate with dozens of outlets in six states. Walter Hussman Jr has personally sat on the boards of C-SPAN and the Associated Press, and has run the family business since 1981. The core values of UNC’s school of journalism, which I have abbreviated here, were written by Hussman himself:
“To provide the most complete report, a news organization… must follow the story wherever it leads, regardless of any preconceived ideas on what might be most newsworthy… Journalists’ role is therefore not to determine what they believe at that time to be the truth and reveal only that to their readers, but rather to report as completely and impartially as possible all verifiable facts”
What is the point of an institution having values, if it isn’t going to do anything to advocate them? Jones’ assertions were factually wrong, if that isn’t reason enough to dismiss her application, but even worse she ascribes wholeheartedly to Critical Theory, which rejects the idea of being able to discern truth itself. Why then should we accept her as an academic? Is that the sort of person you’d like teaching undergraduates? Training them to become political activists instead of journalists? Of course not. I would posit that UNC ought to enforce its values as a public university in the United States, and to do anything less than this would be facetious abdication of its due responsibilities.
Our society has become increasingly polarized because people have become increasingly pushed to live as political activists. We’ve been told that journalism, economics, biology, and even math, are all necessarily political. At the end of the day these ideologues would have us believe there is no real science, no real discovery, all knowledge is just an unfounded assertion of the current power structure. Not only is this philosophy discreditable on a logical basis, but it just isn’t borne out by history. The West became the world’s epicenter for individual rights through the values of rational discussion and tolerance. Do we have a spotted history? Of course, all societies do. But the elements of Western thought and action which are unique were only attainable through strong moral principles, and an unflinching desire to pursue the truth.
The values of free speech and journalistic integrity are outgrowths of the cultural inheritance of the West. The acceptance of these values must be non-negotiables, in the same way that racism and authoritarianism are to be rejected, since society must be built upon a foundation of free speech and honest discussion. Jones and her ilk have admitted they don’t want society to function, they want radical revolution of all norms, expectations, and institutions. UNC is a public university; it should serve the interest of the public, not a small group of radical academics. The North Carolina general assembly is empowered to determine the public interest through discussion and the electoral process, and thus, to some extent, every North Carolinian has a right to have a say in the government of our education system. The final question I would pose for you, dear reader, is this; are the beliefs that these radical academics espouse in the public interest?