Episode 71 – Bias and bigotry by legislation – Why universities must defend free speech

In Episode 70, we discussed how academic freedom was seriously put at risk by silencing dissent and suffocating free speech. We were reminded of how a professor’s (UCLA historian Stanford Shaw’s) home was fire-bombed in 1977. Apparently, some people were enraged when the professor’s detailed research in the two-volume set of books, History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey, exposed Armenian revolts, treason, territorial demands, European interference, and the resulting enormous Turkish suffering which triggered the 1915 TERESET (Temporary Resettlement) decision by the Ottoman Empire for the wartime removal of the logistic base of Armenian insurgency and treason. This was only one case in the scholarly coverage of the Turkish-Armenian conflict at an institute of higher learning in a sea of violent reactions by some Armenians. I covered in Episode 1 Armenian Terrorism, both on U.S. soil and around the world, that lasted through 1970s and 80s, causing numerous innocent Turkish diplomats and their loved ones to be killed and scores wounded along with billions of dollars of property loss. In two 2008, the Southern Poverty Law Center publicly libeled Guenter Lewy, a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, by claiming that Lewy was paid off by the government of Turkiye to dispute the alleged Armenian Genocide, in his 2005 book , The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide. The professor sued and won. A settlement was reached where the SPLC agreed to issue a retraction and apology and pay the professor and undisclosed sum of money. In its apology, SPLC stated that SPLC realized that SPLC were wrong to assume that any scholar who challenges the Armenian genocide narrative necessarily has been financially compromised by the Government of Türkiye. The good professor Lewy replied with this succinct and poignant comment, “It must be possible to defend views that contradict conventional wisdom without being called the agent of a foreign government.” In 2015, Justin McCarthy, a professor of History at the University of Louisville, Kentucky, Bruce Fein, a Harvard Law School alumnus specializing in constitutional law, were scheduled to deliver talks at the University of Toronto. When the Armenian students became aware, they immediately waged vicious campaigns of vilification, defaming the two esteemed intellectuals and bombarded the university president with protest letters demanding that the lectures be cancelled immediately. When the university stood its ground, the Armenian students raided the lecture and turned their backs on the history professor and the legal scholar, creating a rancorous and anxious atmosphere of hatred. Such Armenian campaigns designed to suppress free speech on campus, begs this question to be asked: Is freedom of speech allowed only if no dissent is expressed? In 2016, George Gawrych, History professor at Baylor University, Waco, Texas, was prevented from delivering a lecture at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) when screaming Armenian students raided the room and chanted obscene slogans right into Prof. Gawrych’s face until he left the room. Susan Kruth of FIRE (Foundation For Individual Rights and Expressions) reported this unfortunate assault on free speech in her thoughtful article titled “Historian Shouted Down at Cal State Northridge.” Kruth noted that the protesting students comprised members of Armenian Youth Federation and the CSUN Armenian Students Association. Kruth remarked, “shouting down speakers with whom you disagree is not appropriate conduct in a setting that is meant to be the ‘marketplace of ideas.’ This and countless other such incidents, designed to censor responsible opposing views on American campuses, was the topic of the 2017 book by Dr. Randy Bobbitt, a visiting lecturer at the University of West Florida, titled “Free Speech on America’s K-12 and College Campuses.” On page 195, Bobbitt quotes the First Amendment attorney, C.C. Haynes as saying “ Rather than shutting down speech… schools should help students master the skills of civil discourse, including the skill of listening to speech with which one profoundly disagrees.” Instead of shouting down Prof. Gawrych at Cal State Northridge, for example, the Armenian students should have tried to listen to speech with which they might disagree. Rules of engagement in a civil discourse requires patience and tolerance. Some people readily take the popularly accepted but racist and dishonest Armenian claims at face value, totally oblivious to the plethora of Armenian war crimes and hate crimes, resulting in enormous Turkish suffering. To the official and incredibly flawed Armenian narrative, Turks effortlessly react with a simple question: “Where is the enormous Turkish suffering at the hands of Armenian revolutionaries?”

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