From the equality of rights springs identity of our highest interests; you cannot subvert your neighbor's rights without striking a dangerous blow at your own. Carl Schurz

Monday, March 4, 2013

Intellectual debate my ass

Much has been written in defence of Tom Flanagan these past few days, most of it framing his comments on child porn as an attempt to spark intellectual debate thus the attendant uproar amounting to nothing less than an attack on academic freedom. HOGWASH.

I'm not an educated man and have never attended university but I do support the concept of academic freedom and believe university, nay all school campuses ought to be places of free thought and expression, places where "controversial' topics such as Israeli apartheid and yes social mores can be debated openly and freely.

If Flanagan was indeed merely engaged that evening in  an academic exercise then perhaps an argument could be put forth that he was treated unfairly but that isn't what he was attempting to do.  My read is that he was instead trying to justify he 2009 comments and was in fact expressing his personal beliefs on the subject, beliefs that are coloured by Flanagan's unflinching libertarianism.

Flanagan can walk back all he likes however the fact remains he was being honest when he stated that the viewing of child porn is a victimless crime, that is his belief. He could have argued against imposing a mandatory minimum sentence on those convicted of possessing child porn,  a valid argument in that mandatory minimums can lead to unjust sentences at times,  without claiming it is a victimless crime and  nothing more than ones taste in photographs but he didn't.

He didn't because those are his beliefs.

The academic freedom argument also glosses over perhaps the most stunning revelation and that is that he was on NAMBLA's mailing list for a couple years. This little factoid is never mentioned by those leaping to his defence, why?... because there is no defence . NAMBLA is a vile, contemptuous group that advocates for the legalization of pedophilia. As many have pointed out if I were to "accidentally" find myself on their mailing list getting off it would consume my every effort until accomplished.

In the end Flanagan was done in by his own personal foibles and in the ultimate irony the very culture of intolerance to opposing viewpoints that he has been at the forefront of fostering, a culture by  the way the diametric opposite to academic freedom.


1 comment:

  1. Well, a post about academics wouldn't be complete without a little pedantry: NAMBLA is a vile, contemptible group.
    The distinction goes like, the federal Conservatives are a contemptuous group because they are arrogant bastards who look down on anyone who disagrees with them, a contemptible group because they are corrupt proto-fascists eager to smash democracy and immiserate the country if it will enrich their corporate masters.

    Thing about Flanagan is, he's got an academic hat, kind of, but he remains a public figure. If he were just an academic he could say shit like that and it might spark academic debate, which presumably would righteously squash his asinine point of view but in the process new ideas and clearer ethical reasoning might be sparked. And ideally he'd be protected from academic consequences--he wouldn't lose his job as a professor or whatever just because he went around talking controversial stuff even if it was a pile of nasty bullshit.

    But he isn't just an academic. He's a public figure, and for that matter lots of his academic clout rests on that legacy rather than on any academic merits. And in public figure terms, saying stupid shit like that gets you some terrible publicity and means you're not going to be invited to appear on CBC shows. Duh. And maybe it means some of the plum positions you got for being a pundit will go away. Too bad; live by the sword, die by the sword.