Fire Ward Churchill? By Mark Noonan

I’m pretty sure that we’re all aware of the recent controversy surrounding Ward Churchill – the college professor who opined that the 9/11 victims had it coming. There are stories going around that he is to be fired from his teaching position because of this. Dirty Harry over at Stranded On Blue Islands believes that Mr. Churchill should not be fired

I’ve heard all the arguments … that firing him is not a violation of his right to free speech. But that doesn’t change the fact that if he’s fired, it will be for expressing his political beliefs. And that makes me uncomfortable, especially in a university setting.

Most of the time I’m in complete agreement with Harry, but I have to disagree with him here. All speech is not protected, and no one has a right to suffer no penalty for what they say. I’m with Samuel Johnson on the matter: “I have got no further than this: Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth, and every other man has a right to knock him down for it. Martyrdom is the test.” You may say whatever you wish, but before you open your mouth, think carefully; are you fully prepared to accept the consequences of what you say?

There are some things I will say at the risk of my life and limb – there are other things I might say, but wont because discretion really is the better part of valor. Mr. Churchill decided at a moment of national crisis and tragedy to crudely insult his fellow citizens – now he demands that we listen carefully to what he has to say, and if offended do absolutely nothing about it. This is a gigantic imposition upon us. If I ran Mr. Churchill’s college, he’d have been fired within minutes of publishing his statement about 9/11 – and I would have stated in public that I fired him for his opinions, because I find his opinions offensive and don’t wish to subsidise them via continued employment of Mr. Churchill. In so doing, there would have been not an iota of suppression of Mr. Churchill’s right to free speech – just an assertion by the college that there are some opinions beyond the pale for the college. We would not, for instance, bat an eye at the firing of a professor who advocated Nazism or racism – so why should we fret over the firing of someone like Mr. Churchill whose opinions are just as baseless, hateful and despicable as any Nazi or racist?

Content used with the permission of Mark Noonan of Blogs for Bush. You can read more of Mark’s work here.

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