Thursday, September 16, 2021

I Will Defend to the Death Your Right to Say Malignantly Idiotic Things

This article from Inside Higher Education appeared in my Facebook timeline today. Overall it's good news that Syracuse University forthrightly defended their faculty's freedom of expression, which so many other schools have failed to do.  

Briefly, a Black assistant professor of political science, Jenn Jackson, posted some provocative Tweets on the twentieth anniversary of the September 11 attacks.  She was attacked, the university was urged to fire her, she received threats; the university not only affirmed her freedom of speech but condemned the attacks and demands that she be removed.

Of course, freedom of speech also permits me to point out that one of her tweets was not only wrong, but malignant and idiotic.

In [a] separate tweet, Jackson described the Sept. 11 attacks as targeting the “heteropatriarchal capitalist systems America relies upon to wrangle other countries into passivity. It was an attack on the systems many white Americans fight to protect.”

The 9/11 hijackers, most of whom were Saudi, were nothing if not heteropatriarchal themselves, as is the system of government and the religion in whose name they killed thousands of people, not all of whom were white.  The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other Islamist states are perfectly comfortable doing business with capitalists even if they don't consider themselves to be capitalists: the Saudi royals' comfortable relationship with the Bush crime family is well known, if commonly overlooked.  Targeting a "system" is like targeting "terrorism": it's an abstraction, and framing the attacks in this manner obscures the use of murderous violence against human beings.

I think it's also a safe bet that the 9/11 hijackers would not appreciate being "defended" by a woman who dresses like a harlot, letting herself be photographed with her face uncovered.  (The popular attacks on Western feminism are pertinent here.)

This tweet should go down in history with its heteropatrarchical sibling, "Suck.on.this."  Like Thomas Friedman, Jackson has the right to say whatever vicious things she likes, and I support her university's defense of her freedom.  But others have the right, and indeed the obligation, to point out that the terrorism she justified led directly to wars that killed over a million people, displaced millions more, and made the lives of most people in the Middle East immeasurably worse.  Which is exactly what they were intended to do: the intention was to lead the US into retaliation that would ultimately destroy us.  It has certainly harmed us, but it harmed ordinary people in the Middle East much more, while US capitalists and their corrupt Middle Eastern clients enriched themselves in comfort.