Many of you have likely seen the hubbub over the attempts by conservatives in Wisconsin to get a hold of U Wisconsin history professor Bill Cronon’s email after he criticized the current governor. Paul Krugman even covered the incident in a recent column, and makes a relevant comparison to recent attempts to attack climate science using leaked emails (the so-called “climategate”). Impugn the scholar, not the work.
This week, a group of conservatives here in Michigan has copied the tactic but gone for a much wider net – any professor associated with a labor studies center at one of the three major public universities (UoM, MSU and Wayne State). Surreally, the FOIA request by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy asks for emails that discuss any of the following:
See Talking Points Memo for more details.
I don’t have time for a full reaction but my first response is to recall the words of Miguel de Unamuno, who (quite literally) stood up to the Franco regime in 1936 and asserted that, “Sometimes, to remain silent is to lie, since silence can be interpreted as assent.” I don’t know whether the actions of the Mackinac Center and other conservative groups around the country to attack academics who take political stances will work – either to produce documents, to produce incriminating evidence, or to chill speech. I am betting against it – for example, by picking on high profile, mainstream and relatively moderate folks like Bill Cronon they rate to unify academics more than divide them. I hope so anyway.