Wednesday, October 20, 2021
In the last three sentences of that column, the professors drew an analogy between today’s climate on campus and Germany of the 1930s and warned of what happened when an ideological regime obsessed with race came to power and what it did to free thought.
The remarks reignited the anger of people who had previously clashed with Dr. Abbot over affirmative action. Even supporters of Dr. Abbot’s free speech rights saw the comparison to Nazi Germany as overdrawn. But they added that it was hardly unusual for academics to draw rhetorical comparisons to the rise of fascism and communism.
“Can we just be honest here? This is not happening because Dr. Abbot used a bit of especially vivid language,” Dr. George said. “This is a legitimate subject of debate, and the argument that it makes students unsafe is risible.”Continue reading the main story
Dr. van der Hilst of M.I.T. expressed respect for Dr. Abbot’s scientific work but drilled down on the Newsweek essay. “Drawing analogies to genocide is totally within his right to do so,” he said. But, he added, it is “inflammatory and stifles the very respectful discourse we need.”
He stressed that he talked to senior officials at M.I.T. before deciding to cancel the lecture. “It was not who shouted the loudest,” Dr. van der Hilst said. “I listened very carefully.”
Dr. van der Hilst speculated that Black students might well have been repelled if they learned of Dr. Abbot’s views on affirmative action. This lecture program was founded to explore new findings on climate science and M.I.T. has hoped to attract such students to the school. He acknowledged that these same students might well in years to come encounter professors, mentors even, who hold political views at odds with their own.
“Those are good questions but somewhat hypothetical,” Dr. van der Hilst said. “Freedom of speech goes very far but it makes civility difficult.”
It seems to me this is very like the debate that happened in Germany in the 1930s, except with the strange inversion of racial superiority being defined as that race which is most victimized.