Thursday, November 22, 2007

Holding the Moral High Ground

Further support for free speech at the City University of New York from Phil Ornstein at the Democracy Project:
November 21, 2007

Sharad Karkhanis Stands on the Moral High Ground

The vast majority of Americans don’t want convicted terrorists or terrorist sympathizers teaching their kids. But a City University of New York faculty union leader, Susan O’Malley is suing Dr. Sharad Karkhanis, CUNY professor emeritus, for criticizing her for being obsessed with “finding jobs for terrorists” at CUNY. However, she is surely not the only one “recruiting terrorists” on campus. CUNY faculty and Professional Staff Congress (PSC) leaders besides O’Malley have been defending convicted terrorists’ right to teach and donating to their legal funds using the members’ union dues for these and numerous other political causes. Now, CUNY professor Francis Fox Piven, from the New Caucus of the PSC, has stepped up to defend South African scholar Adam Habib who was accused of engaging in a terrorist activity and barred from entering the United States by the State Department. Professor Piven said “(w)e think this is a clear violation of academic freedom” and invited him to him to speak at the American Sociological Association's annual conference, saying “(h)e would be much in demand” at a number of CUNY campuses.

Sharad Karkhanis will not be silenced. He continues to speak out with a louder voice than ever and will fight to uphold his constitutional rights that are now in jeopardy. Fortunately in America we have the First Amendment right to criticize, satirize and dissent, as he has done with great verve in The Patriot Returns, blasting such preposterous appeals to bring convicted terrorists into the classroom. Defenders of the free speech rights of Karkhanis maintain that the lawsuit is a frivolous one, since O’Malley, one of the targets of Karkhanis’ political satire, was merely offended, as I have argued. The lawsuit has no constitutional basis since there is no law in the United States against being offended. Numerous blogs and articles in support of Karkhanis have been pouring in to the Free Speech at CUNY weblog expressing outrage at the academic elites who seek to silence all criticism and crush dissenting points of view. Professor Mitchell Langbert has been blogging up a storm as well. He brought up some interesting points about the incongruity of lawsuits and collegiality challenging PSC President Barbara Bowen to answer whether she believes it is within the bounds of collegiality for colleagues to sue one another.

While searching for a definition for “collegiality” I found an article that resonates with Langbert’s contention. Dr. Nicholas T. Kouchoukos, past president of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, laments the disappearance of collegiality from his field. He defines collegiality as “respect for one's colleagues and for their professional endeavors,” and citing a case in point of its loss, he revealed professionals within the same specialty slugging it out in malpractice suits in court. One seems to find rotten apples in every barrel.

President Bowen never answered Langbert’s question, however he did get a very telling response from a defender of O’Malley, a CUNY Professor named David Arnow, who is on the Brooklyn College PSC executive committee and has been a member of the University Faculty Senate (UFS):

Defenders of Karkhanis just don't have the moral high ground to invoke 'collegiality'. As for law suits: for all its faults, the U.S. system of law towers over that of any other country I know. Law suits that redress wrongs are part of that system. If there really is a wrong, it ought to be redressed, shouldn't it? How would you right a wrong? Fisticuffs?

I don't know the details of Libel law, but I know that it is happily fairly limited, compared say to the U.K., and so the absurd lies you spin for the Sun are protected-- as they should be. Still, repeated false public accusations of specific criminal acts might satisfy the definition of libel. Your buddy may have crossed the line. Not to worry, I'm sure that the people you and he work for have very deep pockets.

Now, answer the questions that I posed below. Don't try to wriggle out of them: My first question for you is: Have you stopped molesting small children yet? And my second question is: Supposed I posed this question everywhere. Would you sue? Or would you take it in the collegial, satirical sense that it was perhaps intended?

Aside from innuendo, hypothetical molestation conundrums, and the lecture on libel law, it’s the first sentence that is so stunning in its pomposity that I need to address. The mention of the “moral high ground” betrays the elitism and phony righteousness so symptomatic of the PSC leadership who think they are on a mission to save the world. But the moral high ground is held by neither leftwing nor rightwing ideologues, who claim to determine the truth for everyone. Rather, it’s the other way around: the majority of the people of America determine the moral high ground. These fringe ideologues who think they hold the monopoly on truth and are smarter than the rest of us, are the same academic elites who would sue and silence outspoken pests like Karkhanis rather than offering a “collegial” rebuttal or debate. After Langbert offered him an opportunity for intelligent debate on the issues with a series of challenging questions, Arnow, in typical elitist fashion, shut down all further discussion with the following response:

You can put my email anywhere you like, but the gibberish above again evades my questions about whether you've stopped molesting small children and I am not going to waste any more time writing to you. I'm adding you to my spam filter.

From the lofty perch of his claim to the moral high ground, Arnow must believe defenders of Karkhanis, whom he claims are on the moral low ground just don’t merit a response. But it’s the lowly professor Karkhanis and his defenders who speak for the majority of Americans who hold the moral high ground. These are the decent hard working people who pay a lot of money to send their kids to college. They don’t want their kids to be lectured by convicted terrorists. Weather Underground terrorist Susan Rosenberg, convicted terrorist conspirator Mohammad Yousry, Lynne Stewart, Sami Al-Arian, Lori Berenson, Adam Habib and their ilk shouldn’t be promoting their bloodstained ideology in the classroom. The majority of Americans are disgusted with an academic elite that crushes dissent and free speech. Americans who want colleges free from this vermin and who want to ensure free speech for Sharad Karkahnis, are the ones who are now rallying to his side.

Karkhanis speaks for the vast majority of Americans from within the cloistered walls of an elitist institution that silences dissenting points of view. He exposes the clandestine shenanigans of the CUNY faculty union, the PSC, for all Americans to read on the pages of The Patriot Returns and he will never be silenced. The majority of Americans are on his side. Sharad Karkhanis indeed stands on the moral high ground.

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