The New York Times’s Paul Krugman has won a Nobel Prize for Economics but anyone reading his column today, which alleges that liberals are being persecuted on American college campuses, must think that his next award will be for science fiction. Krugman writes about William Cronon, a liberal professor at the University of Wisconsin who is getting some heat from people who didn’t care for his using his academic perch as a launching point for partisan invective at his state’s Republican governor. Some think that Cronon, a state employee, ought to be called to account for possibly conducting partisan political activity while being paid by the state, a violation of law in Wisconsin as well as most other places. Republicans are using the state’s Open Records Law to try and find out whether he used his university email to send out an op-ed published by the Times last week.
Are the Republicans nit-picking about Cronon’s use of his e-mail account? Sure. But none of us should be in any doubt as to whether the left would give the same treatment to a right-winger who attacked Democrats in the same manner as Cronon did. Liberals who have used freedom of information laws whenever it served their interests should not be crying foul over the Republicans doing so.
But Krugman goes a bit further than that. Krugman, a left-winger so partisan that he burned Senator John McCain in effigy at a famous party for fellow academics at Princeton University on election night 2008, is not only offended that any anyone would try and trip up someone who agrees with him about the recent dustup in Wisconsin. He actually wrote today claiming that Cronon’s predicament is an illustration of how Republican “thought police” are persecuting liberals on American campuses. He says the “witch hunt” being conducted against Cronon shows how Republicans are trying to shut down free discourse in academia.
To put it mildly, this is preposterous.
First, anyone who watched the coverage of the debate in Wisconsin knows that it was the Democrats, and the unions and their supporters, who were attempting to shut down free discourse. Not only did the Democrats in the state senate flee the state to avoid allowing a debate and vote on the Republican proposals, but hordes of thuggish pro-union demonstrators did their best not to allow the legislature to function at all because they disagreed with the opinions of the recently elected majority.
Second, if there is any group on American campuses that has a right to feel isolated, persecuted, and shut out, it is conservatives. As even Krugman himself has noted, liberals dominate at American universities. Indeed it is common knowledge that at many schools and departments it is virtually impossible for a declared conservative or Republican to be hired, let alone gain tenure. Indeed, the one form of “diversity” that is not welcome on most campuses is political diversity. And that is just fine with people like Krugman, who has written that it is natural that most academics are liberals and that discrimination has nothing to do with it, presumably because as a liberal — and therefore an open-minded person — he thinks that all people who disagree with him are either insane or stupid.
It’s not enough for Krugman to claim that Republicans are wrong on the Wisconsin budget battle or to say that Cronon should be given a pass for his possible indiscretion. He must claim that conservatives are setting up thought police which is another way of saying that they must be silenced. Far from defending academic freedom, Krugman is a defender of an academia in which only one political philosophy is permissible, and of a public square in which liberals can smear their opponents and conservatives must never answer back.