Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Questioning a reading 

My NARN colleague Scott Johnson has a post about the experience of Southern Illinois University, where a history professor teaching a course titled "Civil Rights and Civil Disorder" used this article from FrontPage as a source for describing the Zebra killings in San Francisco in the 1970s, an example of black-on-white violence. The article included a link to a site of an anti-Zionist and perhaps antisemitic group called the European and American Issues Foundation. (I reviewed their site -- it's sufficiently disgusting to me that I will not provide the link.) The professor distributed photocopies of the article to the class through his graduate assistants. Apparently in an effort to keep the copying to two pages, the URL of this group was deleted.

Because FrontPage did have the link, the leftists in this professor's department published a letter and an ad which denounced the faculty member for his poor editing, and more.

The professor abridged it in a way that disguised its full context and photocopied it for his teaching assistants to distribute.

The article is distorted and inaccurate. It quotes questionable sources without documentation, uses unsubstantiated statistics and repeats inflammatory rumors. Its combination of falsehood and innuendo presented as objective historical commentary seems designed to take advantage of those who may not be trained to analyze sources critically.

Big Trunk reports in an update that the letter writers now say they are only concerned about "the use of improper sourcing and not whether or not he had a right to distribute the article." Clearly from the letter provided above, they are backpedalling. One of the signers went further and called the original piece "white supremacist propaganda."

This is why it is important, whenever and wherever it appears, that faculty challenge attempts to limit their academic freedom. That is why it's important, whenever and wherever possible, to publicize incidents like this. The main point of the article was the nature of the Zebra killings and the seeming presence of a black nationalist ideology in its perpetrators. The issue of the link is a sideshow at best. What they are more concerned about is this "taking advantage of those who may not be trained to analyze sources critically": What they mean is, those whom have not yet been indoctrinated by the leftist majority in SIU's history department.

Frontpage provides additional coverage.