Inside Higher Ed Thinks Rational Discussion Is Aggressive and Dangerous


One of the strangest, but unfortunately predictable, results of the fascist disruption of my event in Stanford University last week was new evidence of how deeply opposed the academic Left really is to the freedom of speech and free discourse.

Jeremy Bauer-Wolf, a self-proclaimed “reporter” with Inside Higher Ed, demonstrated in a hit piece on me that that publication is in lockstep with what is going on at colleges and universities nationwide: the demonization and forcible suppression of dissenting views.

In his piece, he tries to make an issue of my responding to attacks upon me and my work that were published in the Stanford Daily and the Stanford Review.

Apparently, Inside Higher Ed and Jeremy Bauer-Wolf think that I should have no right to respond, or that the attackers’ student status should give them immunity from being called out for their defamation and false statements.

Bauer-Wolf’s implication was that I endangered these students by responding to them, as it is a staple of Leftist fantasy that racist redneck MAGA-hat wearing right-wingers are brutalizing little Leftist snowflakes wantonly all over the country, when in reality the violent ones are the Leftist groups such as Antifa.

In any case, it isn’t as if the people to whom I responded wrote anonymously, and then I found out who they were and named them — they signed their names to their hit pieces, and the fellow who was ripping down the posters advertising my event put up the video of himself doing so, so if they didn’t want to go public with their positions, they have no one to blame but themselves. And if Bauer-Wolf was claiming that I was endangering them simply by criticizing them, then one could never write critically of anyone, for one would be endangering them.

Bauer-Wolf’s piece was filled with the usual propaganda. “In building up to speech by anti-Muslim activist at Stanford,” he wrote, “some questioned the appropriateness of hosting someone who has attacked students by name on his blog. Students stage walkout at event.”

In reality, I am no more “anti-Muslim” than foes of the Nazis were anti-German.

Bauer-Wolf added: “In a digital war of words, Robert Spencer, widely considered to be an anti-Islam extremist, mocked Stanford University students who criticized him before his talk at the elite institution Tuesday night.”

Widely — i.e., by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which Bauer-Wolf presents as a reliable guide to what constitutes “extremism.” He doesn’t bother to inform his hapless readers that the SPLC itself has been widely criticized for the obvious bias and sinister agenda of its “hate group” listings.

Then Bauer-Wolf got to the linchpin of his case: “On his blog Spencer named students, posted photos and videos of them, and referred to them as ‘fascists.’”

Bauer-Wolf here again misleads his readers, by not explaining that the people I named had already come out publicly denouncing me, and I was just responding to their attacks. And are they fascists? Yes. In The Coming of the Third Reich, historian Richard J. Evans explains how, in the early days of National Socialist Germany, Stormtroopers (Brownshirts) “organized campaigns against unwanted professors in the local newspapers [and] staged mass disruptions of their lectures.” If you behave the same way fascists did, maybe you are one.

The intrepid Inside Higher Ed “reporter” did his best to dispel that impression, noting that “one statement from President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell did not reference Spencer, but promised an inclusive campus environment. They also at length defended the need for free speech in higher education.”

But they were not really committed to free speech in higher education. Stanford officials Nanci Howe and Snehal Naik orchestrated the walkout by allowing in students they knew to be opposed to my event, while keeping out those who were sympathetic. Even some members of the sponsoring group, the College Republicans, were not allowed in. Then after the walkout, they refused repeated requests to allow in students who wanted to attend but had been unable to get in. If Stanford were still a university in any valid sense, Tessier-Lavigne and Drell, as well as Howe and Naik, would already have resigned in disgrace.

Regarding the walkout, Bauer-Wolf stated: “As a private institution, Stanford has no constitutional obligation to allow Spencer on campus — it is governed by its own policies.”

In reality, the Constitution is not at issue. What is at issue is the very mission and idea of a university, which is supposed to be a place where ideas are evaluated on their merits, and free inquiry is not just allowed, but encouraged.

Returning to his main accusation, Bauer-Wolf writes: “For at least a week, Spencer has responded on his blog Jihad Watch to multiple opinion writers in Stanford’s student press, at times dissecting the students’ and professors’ grievances with him line by line.”

This is called “intellectual exchange.” That a “reporter” for Inside Higher Ed would think it something heinous shows the low state of the academic establishment today.

Bauer-Wolf adds: “He has also criticized and identified students who have simply openly disagreed with his views or the event.”

No. They identified themselves. I just responded. He is saying I exposed them to harm by responding to their attacks. This is the bizarre world of Leftist academia, in which apparently one must suffer defamation in silence or be accused of further atrocities.

Poor Jeremy Bauer-Wolf! When he sees this article he will be requesting a police escort to his safe space. But if this article, or my posts responding to Stanford students, faculty and administrators, are endangering them, how is his article not endangering me?

Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. Coming in November is his new book Confessions of an Islamophobe. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.

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