People are the same everywhere, I guess.
That cliche stared me in the face this morning, when I saw over 30 new comments on the statement we published signed by a long list of scholars on the upcoming visit by Indian Prime Minister Naarendra Modi to a Silicon Valley. Five more have appeared while I’ve been writing this. Most of them say the same thing: They call the statement “crap” or “BS” or something similar. Some even thanked this blog for gathering together the names of Modi haters–their own hatred seeping through every work. Only a very few comments grappled with anything approaching the substance of the statement.
One of the few positive statements includes this:
Any criticism against Modi is met with uncalled for abusive responses from his social media managers and from the followers of anti-democratic, anti-socialist Modisms in India (as can even be seen on this page). Glad that there will be voices from outside that will keep alive the injustices of this human being, even if he, as the head of this Govt., throttles freedom of press by buying them off and freedom of speech by imposing laws and regulations or simply threats and force.
Like their American counterparts, the critics of the statement don’t understand the importance of Academic Freedom to a democracy. Like too many Americans, they sweep aside any attempt at recognizing the importance of debate. Like the forces of anti-intellectualism in the United States, they deflect discussion into ad hominem attacks:
This is the standard response of known Modi haters that has nothing to do with facts. The article itself smacks of rabid hatred towards Modi. It’s a group of known Modi haters with leftist leanings carrying on with their ancient narrative that disregards the truth. The fact is the present political dispensation led by Modi is the most tolerant in the history of India where his detractors seem to have a freer run than ever before.
It’s a big world, and we’re part of it. No longer can we in the United States look at Academic Freedom simply domestically. No longer can we rely on the protections we have developed in this country. The attacks are coming from within, certainly, but there are plenty of attacks “out there” as well. They may not be directed at the US now, but the web of the scholarly community extends far beyond American shores. My own college boasts quite a few people from South Asia among the faculty, and we are not unusual in that regard.
We have long decried the lack of Academic Freedom in totalitarian societies–though not enough (witness the minimal concern when New York Universities sets up a branch in Abu Dhabi). What we haven’t done effectively enough is help universities even in other democracies establish Academic Freedom as one of the bedrocks of their scholarly activities.
Yes, Academic Freedom is under attack in the US. Perhaps one way of defending it is promoting it everywhere, helping academics around the world achieve what we believe is a necessity for successful academic pursuit.
We are all in this together, no matter where we may be in this mess of a beautiful world.