Alongside humanity, the ancient world was filled with a myriad of monsters. Great leviathans lurked beneath the great uncharted waters, and just outside of the known stalked fantastical creatures whose existence was taken as unquestionable fact.
Our scientifically enlightened minds of today pride themselves on being above such absurdities, and yet a look at the many boogeymen who dominate the mainstream political discourse reveals our conceited self-congratulations to be laughably premature.
Among the most predominant of these boogeymen is the censorship of conservative voices by leftist university campuses. Such censorship has aboutas much reality in it as the centaur or the faun.
In truth, the opposite is the case. If infringements on free speech (which has hardly ever been more than a phantom for anyone besides white malesanyway) is what keeps you up at night, it is not the left, but the right that you should fear.
The silencing of academics who question the state and its dogmas has a long and consistent history in the United States, reaching back at least as far as the McCarthy era and its frenzied, anti-leftist witch hunts.
Today, the situation is no better. Take the case of Drexel University professor George Ciccariello-Maher, who recently received death threats and was suspended from teaching due to his well-founded recognition of the structural origins of mass shootings in the United States.
Professors of color are hit especially hard by academic censorship. Such censorship ranges from of inordinate denials of tenure, through the cutting of funds for Ethnic Studies programs, to direct threats of violence from right-wing fanatics.
If the capitulation of campus administrations to the interests of neo-Nazis is concerning, the fact that these same universities are providing platforms to self-proclaimed white-supremacists such as Richard Spencer should be downright infuriating. University institutions can wag their tongues in service of liberal idealisms such as free speech all they like– as they cover the mouths of academics on the side of vulnerable communities with one hand and raise those who promote violence towards those communities with the other, it is easy to see where their priorities lie.
Of course, censorship of leftist academics is but a small fraction of capitalism’s war against the oppressed. That the silencing of professors gets any sort of coverage at all is more than can be said for impoverished. Whenever we discuss state censorship against the disenfranchised, it imperative to keep at the forefront of our minds all those whom the state does not allow a voice in the first place. For something lauded inherent human right, free speech has only ever functioned as an exclusive privilege.
As students at Texas State learned through our own experience with neo-Nazi activity last year, university administrations will not stand against reactionaries unless they are forced to by student pressure, and even then their response is likely to be lackluster and vague. We must do our part by keeping the pressure high and waging the struggle for a more equitable existence on every front, recognizing the direct links between the oppression of academics to the oppression of society as a whole.
–Brad Waldraff is a philosophy senior