Wednesday, August 02, 2006

REACT: The Case of the Paranoid Professor

According to newspaper reports, a University of Wisconsin instructor, Kevin Barrett, has come under criticism from Republican legislators for teaching a course on Islam: Religion and Culture which professes that 9/11 was produced by the U.S. government as a pretext to war. That the accused terrorists did not have sufficient skill to fly the plans (despite the cell phone reports of many on-board victims). That the buildings were felled by pre-planted demolitions. Etc. Etc… Etc.

Several things struck me about that story … apart for the overriding absurdity. His neo-Muslim religious affiliation is not enough to explain his sudden allegiance to lunacy.

How does a person so demented get a job as an instructor? Hmmmmm. (Okay, I think I have answered my own question. Having spent a lot of time on college campuses, the out-of-reality ratio is quite high in academia. And of course, campuses incubate a large share of our low self-esteem antiestablishment feelings. This guy, however, is on the linty edge of the liberal fringe.) Amazingly, WU’s Provost Patrick Farrell defends the hiring. He issues the old clich├ęs about academic freedom, and the course will get students thinking. Personally, I am thinking that Provost Barrett is not.

My second observation was the comparison to the teaching of a creation theory. If you cannot offer up a creation alternative, then what concept of academic freedom covers Barrett’s outrageously idiotic theories? Whatever you think of evolution vs. creation, there is a lot more scientific validity to the creation theory than Barrett’s paranoid 9/11 creation.

Finally, I was struck by the opposition of “Republican legislators.” Weeeell … I do know that newspapers like to spin anything that would suggest Republicans to be anti intellectual Neanderthals (and some are). Inadvertently, however, the newspaper appears to have made the unmentioned Democrats look bad. I mean, WHO would not be outraged that a major academic institution getting tons of taxpayer dollars should employ this guy. (We do have to cut a little slack since we are speaking of the University of Wisconsin – which institutionally is a bit off kilter anyway.) Is the inference to be drawn that the donkey party legislators support this guy? I would not even believe that of the most die-hard left-wing Dems. Okay… maybe John Kerry and Al Gore. But certainly not the good Democrats of the heartland.

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