Academics at Risk
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A report on the Iraqi professors’ panel at the Middle East Studies Association meeting that just wrapped up in Boston. Their stories of everyday life on Baghdad campuses are heartbreaking.
There is also a McCarthyite and frankly racist campaign being waged by far rightwing Zionist groups in the United States to corrupt the academic hiring and tenuring process. Yellowbellied or corrupt academic administrators who bow to it should be thrown out by their outraged faculties.
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Pennsylvania’s legislature was conned by the Neocon master of Disinformation and the Big Lie, David Horowitz, into wasting taxpayer money to investigate if professors mistreat their students because of the latter’s politics. The commission found that such instances are “rare” and that nothing further need be done. D’oh. There is not any way to know how students vote, and why would you bring that in to grading their paper on Moliere’s plays? Pennsylvania voters should consider whether Rep. Gibson C. Armstrong, R-Lancaster, deserves to sit in their legislature if he is going to waste their hard-earned money on these silly wild goose chases. Isn’t there a Pennsylvania (or better, Lancaster) bloggers’ network that can bring Armstrong’s record in this regard before the public? [Ooops, see the comments. The good people of Pennsylvania have already dumped him in favor of someone who can think straight!].
Mark Lynch discusses issues in academic blogging (the rightwing reaction to which has often threatened academic careers and freedom of speech), in the course of commenting on a blogging panel at the Middle East Studies Association this weekend in Boston. Participants included Lynch, Josh Landis of Syria Comment, and Helena Cobban of Just World News, as well as As’ad AbuKhalil, Leila Hudson (no longer blogging?) and myself.
The general tone of the participants’ comments suggested that academic blogging has severe drawbacks and, with regard to Middle East bloggers, has not produced a ‘second generation’ after the crop of 2002. One reason in my view is that academics who blog on the Middle East are relentlessly harassed and cyberstalked by Likudnik crazies and other sorts of wingnut. You have to have very thick skin and, I think, you have to just not care about the career ladder or social climbing of other sorts to risk it. In my case, I think it helped to have been an army brat. You’re always being transferred to another base and you can’t count on friendships lasting very long, so you just become self-reliant. And, of course, the ethos of the army encourages you to stand up to bullies. But I take Mark Lynch’s point that it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
There is something wrong with our society if simply sharing one’s expertise for free is actually punished. We should do something about that. Please give money to MESA’s Committee on Academic Freedom (scroll down).