Monday, September 04, 2006

Tony Palmeri weighs in on Barrett.

Tony has posted a comment on the Barrett visit to campus, arguing that since Barrett has not expressed his conspiratorial views in the classroom, he is protected by academic freedom. He claims that Wells dodged this issue, but I don't see exactly what he means here. Perhaps we'll find out in his part II.

Tony wants to claim that politics should not be taken into account, but unfortunately, that is all Barrett's visit is about. There are few, if any facts or research here. Barrett continuously defames us with his crackpot theories and then claims protection of the academy.

In any case, as one of my irate posters pointed out, he is an adjunct, teaching one lousy course. What claim does he have to the protections of academic freedom? Doesn't that come with some demonstration of scholarship and responsibility, accepted by peers in granting tenure??

I feel like such a conservative in this comment, but giving Barrett a public forum mocks what higher education is about. Well's response of bringing in someone to talk about how crazy conspiratorial beliefs develop seems like a great idea!


tony palmeri said...

Lake Winneblogo,
I respect Chancellor Wells (he's been much better on free speech and academic freedom issues than most university chancellors), but I don't know how his statement on Barrett can be read as anything other than capitulation to UW opponents in Madison. The idea that an instructor--in this case Barrett--could be forced out of a teaching position because of stating unpopular views on a radio show and a website is something that should frighten all of us. Should we establish a "911 loyalty test" for all who seek employment in the UW System? If one takes a point of view on 911 that Steve Nass or an anonymous UW Oshkosh blogger deride as "crackpot" one does not get employed?

There is one part of Wells' statement I agree with completely. After stating his opinion that Barrett's 911 ideas are nonsensical, he says: "His visit, however, provides our students the opportunity to assess critically his views. Any analysis of the tragedy must conform to the most rigorous standards for scholarly analysis." I agree with that for two reasons. First, it demonstrates an awareness that our students are capable of dissecting Barrett's views and don't need you, me, Tom Lammers or anyone else to do it for them.

More important, the statement is something that should also be applied to the "official" version of what happened on 911 as represented by the 911 Commission Report. I too find Barrett's analysis of those days events unpersuasive (though in fairness to him I have not ever heard a complete statement of his views directly from him), but I also find the 911 Commission report incomplete (it does not even address the collapse of WTC building #7). While I do not believe in a vast government conspiracy to commit the crimes of 911, I also think we are very far from having a complete understanding of what a series of administrations in Washington did or did not do to create conditions in which such terrorism could occur. In many circles, it seems to me, the attempt to shut down Barrett is not simply to marginalize him, but to prevent ANY serious questions about the government's role in the crisis from being asked.

Keep in mind that academic freedom protects not just teachers, but students. To not invite or to disinvite Barrett from campus because Lake Winneblogo, Jim Simmons, Tom Lammers, Tony Palmeri, or anyone else has concluded he is a crackpot is to violate the academic freedom of the students who wish to hear him speak. I think Ann Coulter is a crackpot, but I would never try to prevent the college Republicans from bringing her to campus.

Anonymous said...

In his last post Tony Palmeri skilfully changes the subject from the INVITING of Barrett to the potential DISINVITING of him, which I don't think anyone has suggested to date. The complaints have all been that it is unfortunate that he has been invited because it diverts our students' attention from more serious and substantiated arguments, not that we should disinvite him.

I want to refocus on the inviting of Barrett for a moment because it doesn't seem like something students would take the initiative on. Perhaps I am wrong. As their faculty adviser and the one I suspect was the leading force behind his invitation, Tony Palmeri can correct me if I am.

The Campus Greens have so much to add to political discourse on campus. If only they would concentrate on what I thought were their priorities: promoting a clean environment and clean politics. The Barrett imbroglio is a distraction from that at best.

Who will Palmeri get the Greens to bring to campus next semester? I hear John Mark Karr is available...

lammers said...

Lake Winneblogo wrote:
>>I feel like such a conservative in this comment, but giving Barrett a public forum mocks what higher education is about.<<

I empathize totally with this statement. But the idea behind it underscores the danger of the simplistic dichotomous view of politics that is so common today. The idea that every single person can be divided into two opposing camps on the basis of some key fundamentum divisionis.

This is why I resent attempts to categorize me, my beliefs, and my opinions. I have not sworn allegience to any particular political alliance; I do not support *anything* "right-or-wrong." I evaluate the data and go from there.

We must remember that the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. If you dislike George Bush's presidency or the Republican Party, it does not necessarily place you in alliance with Kevin Barrett. That is the mistake the Greens made, in my opinion: assuming someone opposed to the things they oppose is on their side of the line. They have publicly affiliated themselves with someone who may prove very detrimental to the causes they hold dear, and may cost them their credibility and good reputation.

Though I think the Greens erred in extending the invitation, there is no question now that it must be honored. And I repeat my point that I think Chancellor Wells has handled the situation admirably. As I have gone on record saying, I have no objection to controversial ideas, I only object to sloppy scholarship.

wongfilmfan said...


A good response. It is possible to disagree with people, respect their rights to have their own views and not pigeonhole those who disagree with you.

babblemur said...

Hi again,

I'm enjoying the debate.

One comment:

"he is an adjunct, teaching one lousy course."

I have been seeing a number of references to this issue of his adjunct-ness, usually of a pseudo-derogatory nature, like 'hired gun', 'just an adjunct', etc.

I hope that we don't speak of our own UW-Oshkosh adjuncts in this manner! Many are very very good at their jobs, and many current faculty began as adjuncts.

Oh - and one other comment: I have been taking the "holocaust-denial" tag that has been attached to Barrett in another comment on this blog very seriously and looking for information to verify that. A friend of mine in Madison has indicated the same thing, and the best association he could send me so far is that one man who is an "endorser" of Barrett's non-academic organization is a known anti-semite. I'm still looking for a more solid connection and I am thinking about asking Barrett straight out.

Lake Winneblogo said...

Thanks for all the comments. This has been a very interesting discussion.

I would clarify that I have never called for Barrett's removal from his teaching position, nor challenged his right to say whatever he wants to say about 9/11.

However, I have been clear that I think that inviting Barrett to campus is a bad idea. Many here have argued that it demonstrates our commitment to academic freedom to give him a public platform. Perhaps that is true, but it is also a disaster on the public relations front. As much as I would like reality to be different, inviting Barrett to campus gives the UW-haters ammunition with which to attack us.

I also don't really see what is to be gained by the university by his visit. Perhaps the greens gain notoriety, but we only get more venum sprayed in our direction. He is not going to present us with new , scientific evidence about 9/11.

As far as Barrett being an adjunct, I think it is important. He has generated immense amounts of trouble for us, and continues to gleefully do so. He gets to drag UW through the mud as he goes. Adjuncts have become the way that our system keeps function and the vast majority do a great job for too little pay. However, there is a real difference between teaching a few courses on a part-time basis and being a tenure-track faculty member.

Key to being a full time, tenure-track faculty member is that you are supposed to be a productive scholar in your field and a responsible citizen on your campus. Barrett has not lived up to either of those in his capacity as 9/11 provocateur!