Phillip is Winning
Several people have asked me (apropos the earlier post) if I thought Kurian "won" an argument.
Not yet, but he is doing pretty well. Of course, he is taking the ass-whuppin he deserves (in my opinion, and according to Saunders' Law) for his remarkably poorly argued and bigoted column.
But the response has not been "What a stupid argument you made!" (Though this one is pretty close; well done, Dave!)
It has been "The Chronicle should be closed down for publishing this," or "Kurian should be arrested, or punished." Or, even "Duke should be boycotted by all Jewish students and alumni, because an independent student newspaper published one editorial by one student seeking attention for making an outrageous argument."
(Full disclosure: I know PK well, and consider him a friend. He's a good guy, smart and concerned about the welfare of others. He recently won a Melcher, for excellence in journalism , as well as a Truman.)
Here's the way that academic freedom works, for faculty and students, IMHO.
1. All opinions can be expressed, and publicly evaluated, if even one person wants to do so. I mean all: racism, sexism, even a claim that pro wrestling and the NBA are fake. All opinions.
2. All opinions must be supported by an argument, which will be judged by its use of logic and evidence. Judging arguments by "I'm offended" is ruled out.
Kurian violated #2, as I see it. His column was ad hominem and poorly argued in the extreme.
But the critics are violating #1 when they say that Duke, or the Chronicle, or even Kurian should be punished for allowing this opinion to be heard. He can certainly be abused in print or in person for expressing a view that is nonsense, but he cannot be sanctioned for having violated the rule against saying something stupid or offensive, because there is no such rule.
It seems to me Kurian has done a great service. We at Duke are now going to have a conversation about the view he expresses, which in my opinion is fairly widely (though secretly) held by lots of people on the left. Since (again, in my opinion) this view simply does not bear scrutiny, it may force people to rethink that view, which until now they have been able to maintain without challenge.
So, yes, Kurian is on the verge of winning, since one of his claims was that some shadowy conspiracy of fear prevents alternative views from being expressed. To the extent that a heavy-handed response makes him a martyr, rather than just a person who holds an opinion supported by neither logic nor evidence, he wins.
If all we do is call him an Anti-Semite, he wins. For an array of responses, see this. The original post is perfect: the worst thing you can do to bad arguments is quote them verbatim and in context. Way to go, LGF! But then if you look at the responses, you see that the desire is to blame the Duke faculty, the larger University, the newspaper, and probably the state of North Carolina, for the fact that one badly argued and patently incorrect view was held up to full scrutiny by publishing it in a newspaper.