Wikipedia’s “Gwen Gale”: The New McCarthyism v Academic Freedom

Scare Poster as capitalism eviscerates America’s economy and plunges 45,700,000 without health insurance and at least 6.5% unemployed. Everyone knows it is over 7% when you count those who no longer try to find work as billionaire hedge-fund managers escape criminal prosecution.

One of the reasons why Gwen Gale—it is probably a mere cyber name– has censored my participation in editing on Wikipedia and in particular the “academic freedom” entry is a charge that I am an ideologue who wishes to brainwash my students into adopting a communist ideological worldview. This is her exact statement:

“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.”

I had mentioned this only briefly in an earlier post but let’s examine this in more detail. She is stating that I am an advocate for academic freedom for ONLY ideological reasons. Namely, to inculcate a Marxist viewpoint among my students and bizarrely to induce “private schools” to adhere to a communist viewpoint. Of course I do teach “Marxism.” It is a course called, “Capitalism, Socialism and Social Justice,” which is jointly offered in both the Department of History and Political Science and the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice. It is a course that obviously encompasses not only classical Marxism but also the democratic socialism of Europe and of course capitalism as well. The course compares and contrasts competing ideological visions.

I suspect, however, Ms Gale, who is an administrator and censor at Wikipedia, was not referring to this course but was engaging in an effort to marginalise me as a leftist seeking to abuse academic freedom for purposes of exploitation and indoctrination of my students. Academic freedom in the United States does not allow proselytisation or indoctrination of students. This is expressly prohibited in American Association of University Professor documents such as “Statement on Rights and Freedoms of Students.” A professor may express her opinions; she may construe teaching as a moral act; she may be a disseminator of values and principles but must permit student opinions and disagreements at all times: “students should be free to take reasoned exception to the data or views offered in any course.”

During the McCarthy era in the 1950s, 1000s of professors and secondary school teachers were fired or forced to resign because of allegations of being communist. This Red Scare as it were was a dismal period in American history during the imperialist strivings of America during the Cold War with Russia. Innocent Americans who dared to think and advocate for world peace, ending the arms race, reconciliation with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, modifying the greed and rapacity of capitalism and simply articulating an internationalist perspective were hounded from the university, the Hollywood studio, the corporation and even from the stage such as Pete Seeger and The Almanac Singers and Bob Dylan from the Ed Sullivan Show.

Ms Gale may have been merely defencive as she did not expect another victim of her censorship to be this determined and able to challenge her egregious, unprofessional actions. However, she needs to be reminded that there is a history of persecution in the United States that has resurfaced after 9/11. David Horowitz published: The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America. Daniel Pipes’s Campus Watch blacklisted Middle East specialists who advocated justice for Palestine. Accuracy in Media published a list of liberals. Professors such as Norman Finkelstein, Mehrene Larudee, Nadia Abu El-Haj, Terri Ginsberg, Nicholas De Genova and many others have been denied tenure, promotion, continued rehiring or have been international targets of opprobium due to their political and scholarly interests.

I urge Gwen Gale to be more judicious in temperament or more respectful of others and avoid possibly derogatory statements that could have significant consequences.

No to censorship. No to blind charges of propagandising students. No to ad hominems. No to silencing dissent.

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