All Hail Caesar! Here and Abroad

In the USA, it is “All hail to Caesar!” So it seems by the clampdown on students satirizing President Obama at Bucknell University. Readers may recall that during the election campaign the freedom-fighting (?) faculty of the University of Illinois got a reversal of a ruling that would require them to eschew political buttons bashing President Bush and/or candidate McCain. During that free speech fracas, the AAUP and ACLU rushed to join FIRE in protesting this restriction. The AAUP’s professed commitment to academic freedom involved both faculty (its constituency) and students (read AAUP Joint Statement here under Student Affairs).

Now that the favorite of academe (Obama) is in power, we wait for the other shoe to drop. And the AAUP, ACLU are . . . silent as a tomb.

Civil libertarian David French opines on the Bucknell situation here. A Bucknell alum notes that his alma mater is a repeat offender.

At least FIRE is consistent: They have attacked Liberty University (the conservative evangelical institution) for derecognizing the College Democrats.

Speaking of speech tombs, the election in Iran shows how difficult it can be to get out the message. Twitter has emerged as the primary means, along with bloggers who are putting their lives on the line. Why? Because a 2008 Iranian law imposes the death penalty for all those who “disturb the mental security” of others. Hmmm. Have the mullahs been reading U.S. harassment codes?

Read on about the cyberwar being fought in Iran.

Lost in the election debate is the distinction between freedom and democracy. Democracy may be the means to an end but if women are beaten for showing their ankles, Lady Liberty is outraged, even if an election was “fair.” The media (and presidential) focus on democracy misconstrues the individual yearning for freedom–the same desire that motivated minorities in this country to cite our natural rights tradition and Constitution protecting the right to deviate from the norm. But that’s a subject taken up in my forthcoming book (due out next month), Race and Liberty in America: The Essential Reader.

One final note: there is no moral equivalency between the USA and Iran on matters of speech. Nonetheless, if tyranny has a tendency to spread, it is aided by the forgotten arguments for freedom.

Postscript: On the conflict between democracy and liberty, I can recommend the following reprint of a classic study, Arthur Ekirch, Jr.’s The Decline of American Liberalism (1955, reprinted 2009).

Jonathan Bean is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, Professor of History at Southern Illinois University, and editor of the Independent book, Race & Liberty in America: The Essential Reader.
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