The American Dissident: Literature, Democracy & Dissidence


Inside Higher Ed—Free Speech in Peril

Censorship of anything, at any time, in any place, on whatever pretense, has always been and will always be the last resort of the boob and the bigot. 
          —Eugene O’Neill

InsideHigherEd.com was founded by a former manager of The Chronicle of Higher Education, Doug Lederman (depicted in the watercolor on the right), who has to date censored my comments on a number of different occasions, though I made no threats and didn't even use those nasty four-letter words.  In a democracy, should higher education and its diverse organizations, both private and public, be in the censoring business?  Of course not!  Yet it clearly is and continues to be (see, for example, thefire.org for numerous examples of censoring institutions of higher learning).  Higher education should be in the business of spine building, not in that of protecting the spineless. 

This page serves to denounce censorship and, in particular, that effected by Herr Lederman. 

The first incident of censorship concerned my comment on the following poem by Laurence Musgrove, associate professor of English at Saint Xavier University (Chicago, IL): 

Syllabus 
On the first page just after the required novels
And before the list of learning outcomes
I’d paste a photo of me from ‘73
Scraggly hair and wire-rimmed glasses
And then torn from my long gone journal
Some half poem or worry on the day
So they might see me and not me
Who could be their dad or worse
With these handouts and so much to read
How jealous I am I am almost crying
How much I love them.
My commentary was the following.  Sure, I suppose, I could have been more courteous and less critical, but should paucity of deference, positivism, and bourgeois etiquette merit censorship?
Why publish such a lame poem? Well, it is indicative of the general state of professors in higher education today, where few have the courage to openly question and challenge the various hands that feed and otherwise fatten them into submissiveness. Democracy is at stake in America today, so let's write a poem about the syllabus! For poems et al decrying the state of higher ed that Inside Higher Ed would likely never publish, see www.theamericandissident.org. Vigorous debate is the cornerstone of democracy... but not in higher ed, where speech codes, collegiality, and cutesy wit rule!
After I'd informed Lederman of my disappointment in his choice to play the censor and my sending him the above watercolor depicting him as a modern-day Comstock was:  "Thanks for the heads-up, Tod."  Weeks later, I noticed I was no longer receiving his InsideHigherEd email.  Thus, I wrote him wondering if I'd been rendered persona non grata because of the watercolor.  His response was the following:
Stop being so frickin' paranoid. I have a much thicker skin than that.
We revamped our web site and email and some email programs don't like it. I'd check your spam filter, but will check when I get back to the office.
And calm down, will you?
Life is too short.
But, as I brought to his attention, how not to be "so frickin' paranoid" when censored right and left by well-meaning academics of the corporate-co-opted ilk?