Academic Freedom and Censorship: From Wikipedia’s “Gwen Gale” to Veterans Day Suspension Six Years Ago

Academic Freedom is Never Free Nor is Free Speech!

On this date November 11, 2002 I was suspended for having responded to an e-mail from Air Force Cadet Robert Kurpiel. For many it was an egregious violation of my academic freedom. For others it was just retribution in silencing a harsh critic of American imperialism. The Internet contains thousands of items on this case and I never for a moment regretted its occurrence. I knew then as I know now that I was subject to a public lynching for my political beliefs. Yes my e-mail was too harsh in areas and I apologised before this became a national incident. The Air Force Academy acted honourably throughout this auto da fe and apologised to me for its capricous distribution of the e-mail throughout the world.

My category on my blog, A: Kirstein Academic Freedom Case chronicles this extraordinary event when I was thrust unwillingly and hurtled unexpectedly into the national conversation on academic freedom. I have used these past six years to defend professors and to spread the word of resistance against arbitrary and oppressive tactics to silence, marginalise and even blacklist progressive faculty who construe teaching as a moral act and militarism and racism as worthy of resistance and denunciation.

Recently Wikipedia has engaged in reprehensible and indefensible behaviour in censoring my blog link to their entry on academic freedom. Gwen Gail, probably a fake name by the way, an administrator at Wikipedia has prohibited me from posting a mere link to my blog. I have extensively covered this in two previous blog posts but more needs to be stated on this anniversary of my academic freedom case. While Wikipedia cannot deny academic freedom to anyone, since only university governing boards, administrations, faculty and state legislatures can do that, it is playing a similar role in its orchestrated efforts to purge leftist or progressive blogs from an entry on “academic freedom.”

Ms Gail wrote in a so-called “talk page” but it is really an elitist technocratic blog for Wiki officials: “Or is he rather stirring things up with a bit of handy polemic propaganda? :) Gwen Gale (talk) 14:09, 10 November 2008 (UTC)”

This is a charge without foundation. I have been accurately stating the facts of my censorship. She claimed my blog was too “radical.” Her word. My efforts to defend free thinking and free inquiry are dismissed as “polemic propaganda.” Censors rarely concede error and almost never admit to censorship. She has repeatedly claimed I was censored not for my views but for “edit warring.” Let me explain to my audience what she is stating. I refused to be silenced and marginalised and kept posting my blog link despite someone–I did not know who it was–removing it. I was defending my rights as an American citizen living in a democracy to inform the Wikipedia public about my blog which has contributed 100s of posts on academic freedom as can be seen in the Categories in the upper right corner.

A censor such as Ms Gail retaliated against my struggle for free speech and puncturing the walls of censorship by barring me from Wikipedia altogether for several days. I had no choice but to use my blog to respond; I even received a lengthy e-mail tome from apparently her supervisor defending, of course, her actions. Censors usually have it on authority to do just that.

Ms Gail, despite her baseless claims of ideological neutrality, seems unable to control her reactionary bias even while simultaneously claiming to be beyond the ideological fray. In a typical ad hominem, unprofessional and OUTRAGEOUS statement that is reminiscent of McCarthyism she writes on the Internet that I support academic freedom only to spread communist ideology among my students. Here is the exact quotation of this person’s rather incoherent if not unfathomable statement on academic freedom:

“Oh, I think it’s likely he’s a tenured prof and yes, I’ve thought he might more than likely be talking about an academic freedom to teach Marxism, which is to say, making even private schools follow his notions on this under sway of the law. Not that it has any pith at all here, he was blocked for edit warring.”

I have carefully documented in each of the three posts that Ms Gail harbours antipathy toward progressives and arbitrarily decides in her position as administrator, which views mirror her own and receive permission to edit or post items on Wikipedia. As my suspension and numerous other cases such as Dr Norman Finkelstein’s revealed, whether it is Wikipedia, DePaul University or St Xavier University in 2002–not the current administration–the struggle for justice, free speech and academic freedom continues. I will without fear or trepidation resist anyone or any source that attempts to stymie and limit the free flow of information.

On this Veterans Day I remain as committed as I did six years ago to keep the struggle alive and defend democratic ideals without which we shall descend into the darkness of conformity, racism, homophobia and Orwellian autocracy.

A Note to My Students: Wikipedia, henceforth, will be prohibited as a source for research in any of my classes in history or political science. It cannot be construed as reliable, scholarly and unbiased. I do not feel comfortable in its sourcing of information and question its blind pursuit of the truth. Students are free to examine Wikipedia but not to utilise it as a source in historical research or methodology. If a student believes, however, that a Wikipedia entry is vital for a particular citation, kindly share it with me prior to submission.

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