FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Sketches for a New Blacklist

by David Price

My office is cluttered with over 20,000 pages of FBI files chronicling the damage inflicted on academic freedom in America by McCarthyism. These hundreds of different files tell divergent stories with various twists, turns and morals, but most of them are bound together by a simple feature: the names of these individuals who’s lives were invaded and altered appeared somewhere, sometime on a list of subversives, and the FBI read these lists and opened investigatory files (or added to existing files) on these individuals. There were countless lists of suspect academics printed in publications such as the American Mercury, Readers Digest, newsletters of the American Legion or various religious denominations. Most often these individuals had taken public stands on unpopular issues such as peace, racial, economic or gender equality.

These lists are making a comeback, as once again intellectuals with minority views are being identified and tracked by censorial groups. One such group is the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA). The ACTA is a Washington, D.C. based organization with the proclaimed mission of being “dedicated to academic freedom, quality and accountability.” Oddly enough its primary means of reaching this stated goal is by intimidating scholars who assert these principles of academic freedom in ways that run counter to the ACTA’s narrow views of the past and present.

The ACTA recently produced a 38 page pamphlet that in many ways reads like a prototype of a neo-McCarthyist blacklist for our new hot war (see: http://www.goacta.org/Reports/defciv.pdf). The pamphlet, “Defending Civilization: How our Universities Are Failing America and What Can Be Done About It” compiles 117 quotes from respected American academicians critical of current US policies. These quotes range from gentle questions concerning the propriety of specific actions, to radical critiques of American policies and practices, but theses quotes lead the ACTA to make the charge that “college and university faculty have been the weak link in America’s response to the attack” of September 11th.

ACTA Chairwoman Emeritus and national “Second Lady”, Lynne Cheney, is quoted on the pamphlet’s cover endorsing the need for Americans to study the past-though the envisioned past she’d have us study is clearly compartmentalized in ways that serve hegemonic interpretations of the current crisis. Cheney tells us that “living in liberty is such a precious thing” as the pamphlet compiles a list of Americans whose liberties the ACTA would like to see reduced. But Republicans like Cheney are not alone to blame for this pamphlet designed to threaten those who would actually practice academic freedom. Besides Cheney the remaining members of the ACTA governing board are two of Cheney’s NEH colleagues (Jerry Martin & Anne Neal) and two conservative Democrats Joseph Lieberman and Richard Lamm.

The pamphlet has a few tantalizingly strident quotes such as the widely publicized (and later apologized for) quote by University of New Mexico historian, Richard Berthold that “anyone who can blow up the Pentagon gets my vote”, but most of the quotes are moderate in their view and tenor. In fact, one of the remarkable things about this pamphlet is how relatively tame or even common-sensical many of the quotes are. For example CCNY sophomore Nuriel Heckler’s observation that “we don’t feel military action will stop terrorism, but it will lead to racism and hate,” or Jesse Jackson’s statement that we should “build bridges and relationships, not simply bombs and walls.” To the ACTA such moderate suggestions are too much, and must be shouted down.

This pamphlet title’s use of the term “civilization” is significant. As anthropologist Thomas Patterson recognizes, traditionally “civilization’s champions have claimed that the institutions and practices of the ruling classes and the state are desirable and necessary in that they maintain order and underwrite the conquest of nature.” That academics are not choosing to engage in supporting this modern conquest is indeed disappointing to the ACTA.

That American intellectuals would raise the ire of censor-prone conservatives like those at the ACTA is natural. The refusal of academics to reduce the current war to simplistic analyses of good versus evil, or civilization versus tribalism should be upsetting to those who view intellectuals’ chief duty as rationalizing the actions of state. The ACTA is opposed to independent thought during this time of war and it seems to sense no danger in their wish to muzzle and intimidate knowledgeable individuals who are trying to add more information to an ill informed public during a time a crisis.

The American Association of University Professors (an organization who abandoned many professors during the days of McCarthyism) has thus far come out with strong support for the principles of academic freedom. Last month Mary Burgan, the AAUP General Secretary noted “a distrust of intellectuals has always lurked beneath the surface of American popular opinion. Now it has begun to leak out again-either through the frontal assault in the partial reporting by the New York Post of a forum at the City University of New York, or the sidewipes at “campus teach-ins” by a respected columnist like Tom Friedman or others such as John Leo.” So far the AAUP is standing on the side of academic freedom, but this is a fight in which we must remain ever vigilant.

There is no criticism too strong for those who would intimidate and stifle free thought and expression-especially during times such as these when knowledgeable scholars’ access to the public via the media is being curtailed. That members of the ACTA’s board are among those who can bend the ear of our new Home Security Office should cause us all grave concern, and we must be doubly vigilant in protecting the rights of those of us who exercise our rights of descent. CP

David Price is Associate Professor of Anthropology at St. Martin’s College. His forthcoming book is Cold War Witch Hunts: The FBI’s Surveillance and Repression of Activist Anthropologists. dprice@stmartin.edu

 

David Price a professor of anthropology at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington. He is the author of Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in Service of the Militarized State published by CounterPunch Books.

More articles by:
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
Stephanie Van Hook
The Time for Silence is Over
Ajamu Nangwaya
Toronto’s Bathhouse Raids: Racialized, Queer Solidarity and Police Violence
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
Binoy Kampmark
Headaches of Empire: Brexit’s Effect on the United States
Dave Lindorff
Honest Election System Needed to Defeat Ruling Elite
Louisa Willcox
Delisting Grizzly Bears to Save the Endangered Species Act?
Jason Holland
The Tragedy of Nothing
Jeffrey St. Clair
Revolution Reconsidered: a Fragment (Guest Starring Bernard Sanders in the Role of Robespierre)
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail