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Thursday, January 29, 2015

The right of free speech may be under attack through intimidation

Do we have the right to say what we think, feel or to make statements that challenge, or is that right given up when you accept a state paycheck?

An open records request by a conservative think tank in Michigan seeks all emails related to the collective bargaining standoff in Wisconsin from labor studies professors at three public universities. The request came just days after the Republican Party of Wisconsin made a similar request of a professor at that state's flagship university in Madison. 

The professors in question say the requests are highly unusual, smack of McCarthyism and are an attack on academic freedom. They point to the "big brother" attempt to silence dissent and the beginning of potential totalitarism.

Republicans counter that they don't need to give a reason for such "routine" requests and call it chilling that they would come under fire for "lawfully seeking information about their government." 

Yet this has never been done before by political operatives. The Freedom of Information Act was conceived to allow the press to do its job and allow individuals to find out about files about themselves or attacks on their character and, oddly enough, privacy. In part it grew from heavy handed intimidation by the FBI and other government agencies against dissenters in the mid to late 20th Century.

The inference is that if you speak any way but our way, your job may be in danger. 

Professors jobs, in part, are to stimulate thought and to challenge students toward critical thinking and free speech, whatever their views may be. To do so, open statements of beliefs and views by the professor are needed, or the professor cannot challenge through dissent.

Then too there is the issue of who funds the conservative think tank that is filing the actions. Heavy and some high profile contributors to Tea Party candidates and the Republican Party dominate the list of the "board" of the organization behind these particular "freedom of information" act requests.

To listen to a story from National Public Radio's Morning Edition, click here.

Posted 9-12-2011


Anonymous said...

The freedom of information act was intended for us to be able to see our own files and to get government out from behind closed doors. When did it stretch to mean that private e-mails and blogs are free for anyone to see? And to what end would a Republican Think Tank want to see these from a professor? Oh, to shut up any opposition or free thought.

Veronica Aguirre said...

You leak something dark about the government then expect people to ask for your head.

Com 101 940

coastielema said...

And to think how horrible it was for those wikileaks?

How unfair for all those private e-mails to be released?

Us "freedom lovers" should be appalled at such a horrendous violation of privacy...especially when it's violating taxpayer subsidized computers in a taxpayer subsidized environment?

Art Lynch said...

Interesting discussion. I wish more students would participate.

First, I need to make clear that all views have validity, and the right to defend their views. Read entire books, articles, posts and then follow-up with open-minded two-sided research. Pay attention to the need for and definitions of critical thinking and the ethics of fallacies (not all use of fallacies are for ill purpose, unless you do not believe in rhetoric and free and open discourse.

It is my experience from reading, life and interviewing people, both young and old, which lived through dictatorships, war and other hardships, that we must protect our right to speak without fear of repercussions. The action taken by the Michigan Think Tank can have no other purpose than to intimidate and stop dissenting views from being professed (note the root for professor, no a coincidence).

When it comes to professors you have to weigh the issue of academic freedom and the diversity of views within the marketplace to advance understanding, research and academic discourse.

The truth is that protected language protects academics, however a loophole in the "public access law" makes it difficult to research, report, have needed interaction over long distances using e-mail and other resources as apart of their job and of free open research.

When you have the fear of your correspondence being used to get you fired, the freedom of academic research and Academic freedoms disappear.

In the case of university professors, the law in on the side of them doing their jobs, but a loophole has been used in a way never legislatively intended to make doing their jobs impossible.

As for public funds...if e-mail is being used to say communicate with sex sites (outside of research that has academic value in that area) then the public does have a right to know. But needed private correspondence within academic environments are a part of academic freedom and very nature of academic research.

The first thing a dictator does is toss out any confidentiality or freedoms using any seemingly valid excuse in order to control and silence or humiliate dissenting views.

That is what a private think tank funded by billionaires who are major players in creating the Tea Party and the back door theft of what was an open Republican party process want to do by abusing the intent o the “freedom of information law”.

Why else would they take the action they did, when it has nothing to do with what happened in the legislature or public circles?

We need to safeguard freedoms, including privacy, freedom of speech, academic freedoms, confidentiality of information and our ability to communicate without a Big Brother (government or private) listening over out shoulder.

coastielema said...

Why the reference to dictators? Or...just to stop beating around the this a comparison of dictators to the so-called hijacked republican party?

I see no other reason other than a comparison due to the context of the text.

Definitely a good strategy for shutting up people that oppose your viewpoint.

After all, who wants to labeled a dictator?

Anonymous said...

Check your history.

Free societies do not listen in on phone calls, use legal channels to tap private e-mails, use intimidation to attack those who disagree with them and call the opponents names instead of argue facts. Global Warming is real, ask any environmental scientist. Evolution is debatable, but the alternative is not even a science so it should be taught in philosophy or religious studies (it does not meet the criteria for science, ask any scientist). It seems attack is all the far right (or far left progressives) can do. How about reading, listening, being open and using critical thinking skills to understand instead of attack? HN 115

Anonymous said...

Where does it say dictator? Are you putting words into someone else's column, or did I miss it somehow?

Michael Dubia said...

Reminds me of 1984 in some perspectives, and to think I thought we had some privacy in the "land of the free". It's also a little disrespectful to say "they don't need to give a reason for such "routine" requests".

SJ Walker BC03 said...

i was never really interested in politics & this is why.