June 17, 2004

Defining Brownshirts

Academia has always had a problem throwing out the brownshirts. Academic freedom cannot survive organized campaigns of violence and intimidation but cast the net too wide and you get official repression of dissenting view. With the controversy over Prof. John Yoo, it's starting to become evident that where to draw the line is once again going to be a problem.

What Prof. Woo did is provide legal advice, exploring whether or not the Taliban or Al Queda fell under the terms of the Geneva Conventions. The Geneva Conventions provide lots of different protections and they should be viewed as something of a reward for honoring the restrictions in warfare that qualify you for them. According to the petitioners, because Prof. Woo did not interject observations unrelated to the question (whether torture was ok), he should be drummed out of academia.

The petitioners are still (barely) on the civilized side of the brownshirt category in my opinion. How much further they can go before they cross the line would be an interesting question. With the long-established pattern of criminal conduct against conservatives at university being accepted by faculty and staff all over the nation, I don't think this will be an intellectual exercise for very long.

Update: If you're not that familiar with the torture memos, Prof. Yoo had a recent defense of them in the LA Times.

Posted by TMLutas at June 17, 2004 10:34 AM