Friday, March 5, 2010

Academic Repression


Academic Repression: Reflections from the Academic Industrial Complex

Peter McLaren (Editor), Steven Best (Editor), and Anthony J. Nocella II (Editor)

The extreme repressive attacks on Churchill, Finklstein, Fontan, Best, Massad, the “Dirty Thirty,” and many others represented in this book demonstrate the repressive logic of “US democracy,” whereby political elites, the mass media, and the education system establish and police the parameters of acceptable discourse. Churchill became America’s own Salman Rushdie terrorized by the fatwa of the right. Unprecedented for the media coverage given to a professor (in a mass media culture that virtually ignores substantive ideas in favor of spectacle and sensationalism) the Churchill affair was, however, just one of many cases of attacks on academic freedom that eerily evoke the tyranny of the McCarthy era where actors were blacklisted and professors were fired for having even liberal views or showing dissent against state repression. While there has been much research on political repression carried out by the Bush administration, FBI, and various law enforcement agencies, there has been little discussion on political repression in academia and how the shockwaves of 9/11 have reverberated throughout academia. This anthology brings together prominent academics who contribute original essays commissioned for this volume. The writers are known and respected figures in their respective fields, and many have experienced academic repression first-hand.

This volume aims to be a cogent intervention in debates over free speech, culture wars, and academic freedom. Given that the importance of free speech to academic life, and the crucial role universities play in the intellectual life of cultures as a whole, a volume addressing the political environment of universities in the current period promises to make a significant contribution.

Academic Repression: Reflections from the Academic Industrial Complex (AK Press), is a much needed book on a topic that has seen little attention. Since 9/11 the Bush Administration has ventured to every campus influencing and forcing change by administration to handover faculty, staff, and student work to be flagged as possible signs of threatening behavior. While there have been numerous books on academic freedom, that topic is outdated and something that arguably does not exist on U.S. campus soil anymore. This volume addresses not only overt attacks on critical or radical thinking, it also – following socioeconomic trends unfolding for decades – engages the broad structural determinants of academic culture. Slowly but surely, the university is being transformed from a space for free thinking, experimentation, and philosophical education in the broadest sense into a narrow, restrictive, utilitarian institution that serves the technical needs of corporations, government, science and technology, and the military. Thus, as emphasized by numerous contributors, the ultimate cause of repression is not the academy itself, but contemporary capitalist society as a whole, which strongly shapes the structure, function, and priorities of higher education. This volume shows that while universities are crucial sites of socialization in capitalist ideologies and utilitarian performance, they are not monolithic citadels or homogeneous systems of thought that grind out in assembly-line fashion each and every student into the service of capitalism. For just as universities can train tomorrow’s FBI and CIA agents, so they can breed the next generation of radicals, resisters, saboteurs, and revolutionaries.

The university is a contested political space for three reasons. First, it is home to a diversity of viewpoints, ranging from far-right to far-left, from Christian to Muslim, from white to black, Indian, or Chicano/a, from speciesist to animal liberationist, and from heterosexual to gay/lesbian. Second, despite broad and growing trends of repression, there are varying degrees of tolerance for the discussion of non-mainstream or radical ideas in classrooms and campus life. Third, however uncritical, conditioned, and conformist some students might be, they have the potential (often actualized) to discuss, debate, and think critically about issues such as US colonialism, slavery, sexism, and speciesism, and professors, staff, and students - consciously or unconsciously – cannot socialize all of them into their own worldviews and politics.

-- Nocella, Best, and McLaren About the Editors:

Anthony J. Nocella, II is completing his doctoral work at Syracuse University. He is a Visiting Scholar of SUNY Cortland's Center for Ethics, Peace and Social Justice (CEPS) and is teaching classes in Sociology and Criminology at Le Moyne College.

Steven Best is Associate Professor of Humanities and Philosophy at the University of Texas, El Paso.

Peter McLaren is Professor of Education, Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, University of California, Los Angeles.


This courageous and chilling book reminds us that the Academy is always a context for intellectual exchange and political struggle. Don't miss it! -- Cornel West, Princeton University

This book takes us into the Corporate University, and it's not a pretty sight. From firing critical thinkers to putting students in debt, the system is failing America. Time to take it back by fighting for free higher education. -- Jim Hightower, populist speaker and editor of the "Hightower Lowdown"

The university should be a place of freedom not a battlefield where the military industrial complex is launching its most violent attack yet on the future of education. Nocella, Best, and McLaren shows us that education must be protected if we want peace and social justice for the world. Read now! -- Cindy Sheehan, Peace Activist and Founder of "Gold Star Families for Peace"

To the litany of claims by academics that the university is a safe haven for intellectual and political dissent, this book offers a convincing counter-argument. Academic Repression is a long overdue collective study of the long and sorry history of violations of academic freedom, iconoclastic thought and political dissent in US institutions of higher education. The editors have assembled an impressive group of scholars who, often through personal experience as much as analytic acuity, have supplied us with commentary as much as documentation of the central thesis of the book. This book should be required reading in all of the social sciences, humanities and education courses. -- Stanley Aronowitz, author of "The Knowledge Factory: Dismantling the Corporate University and Creating True Higher Learning"

Absolutely and utterly indispensible as we chart a way forward and attempt to finally turn the page on an era best left in the dustbin of history. It's a first round knock out. -- Dave Zirin, author APHOS

For over half a century, matters of knowledge and education have been central to the political struggles shaping our world, and the university has been a primary battleground. This collection is a chilling and powerful survey of contemporary battles, their stakes and possibilities. We should all be scared, and we should all concerned enough to take a stand. -- Dr. Lawrence Grossberg, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Using the tired canards of anti-semitism, terrorism and radicalism, rightwing zealots are carrying out a merciless campaign of ideological cleansing on American campuses, often with the shameful complicity of university administrators. Academic Repression takes you to the frontlines of this fierce battle for the mind, telling stories of purges, institutional cowardice and resistance. Here at last is a strategic plan for how to fight back against the New McCarthyites. Read it twice and then throw the book at them. -- Jeffrey St. Clair, author Born Under a Bad Sky, co-editor of CounterPunch

Freedom of speech in the academy is a cornerstone of democracy -- fascism always creeps closely behind intellectual repression, and we are not immune from the virus. If you want to understand how rocky our freedoms are today, pick up this book, read it, and join the fight to end censorship in all of its imperialist forms. -- Joshua Frank, co-author with Jeffrey St. Clair of the forthcoming Green Scare: The Government's New War on Environmentalism

The powers-that-be are uncomfortable with academic freedom because when one investigates any political, social, economic or even scientific issue thoroughly, a leftwing analysis will tend to emerge. Thinking is dangerous for them. This book is full of the stories and observations of some of the greatest thinkers alive today. -- David Rovics, Singer-Songwriter

The editors have drawn together a diverse and competent group of scholars to assess critically the climate of academic repression. This is an essential book for anyone with a deep concern for the future of the academy. It will help raise awareness of crucial issues that face the universities. We ignore this challenge at our peril. -- Dr. Andrew Fitz-Gibbon, Director, Center for Ethics, Peace and Social Justice, SUNY Cortland

As the editors and contributors of this valuable collection make clear, American academia has long been a combat zone, and never more than today. Eternal vigilance, and constant struggle, remain the watchwords if the free expression of thought upon which a good society depends is to be realized. -- Joel Kovel, author of "Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel/Palestine"



William Armaline

John Asimakopoulos

Bill Ayers

Liat Ben-Moshe

Michael Bérubé

Carl Boggs

Marc Bousquet

A. Peter Castro

Ward Churchill

Dana Cloud

Sumi E. Colligan

Maria E. Cotera

Christian Davenport

Victoria Fontan

Takis Fotopoulos

Henry Giroux

Adam Habib

Joy James

Robert Jensen

Richard Kahn

Caroline Kaltefleiter

Doug Kellner

Mark LeVine

Bill Martin

Peter McLaren

Micere M. Githae Mugo

Mechthild Nagel

Cary Nelson

Michael Parenti

Emma Perez

Mark Rupert

Rik Scarce

Deric Shannon

Stephen Sheehi

Amory Starr

Gregory Tropea

Ali Zaidi

Howard Zinn

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