Last Tuesday I invited the well-known scholar and NY Times columnist Stanley Fish to join me on the radio. Since he hasn’t gotten back to me, I assume he isn’t interested. That would be fine — except that this is the guy who lied about me, and thereby helped trash my academic career, in a huge article on the op-ed page of the Sunday New York Times!
Below is my email to Fish. I’m not holding my breath waiting for a reply.
Dear Stanley Fish,
I saw your article about the 9/11 conference in the Catskills, and would like to extend an invitation to talk about it, and about your essay “There’s No Such Thing As Free Speech,” on one of my radio shows. Current openings include Tuesdays beginning August 31 noon to 1 pm Eastern, and Saturdays beginning September 4th 7-8 pm Eastern.
I have read and admired quite a bit of your work over the years — but did not admire your NY Times op-ed that slandered me and contributed to destroying my academic career.
That op-ed falsely claimed that I was teaching “Conspiracy Theories 101” in my Religion and Culture of Islam course at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and that I “shared with students” my “strong conviction that the destruction of the World Trade Center was an inside job perpetrated by the American government.” This is an outright lie. In that course, the majority of assigned readings on 9/11 took the official story for granted, while only one directly questioned it; and I had intended to present the various views neutrally and let the students come to their own conclusions. (Watch one of my students make this point to a smarmy, condescending Bill O’Reilly here.)
I most certainly was not “sharing” any of my strong personal convictions, on 9/11 or anything else, with students. Had it not been for the media circus staged by Republican state legislator Steve Nass, my students would never have known that I held any strong convictions about what happened on 9/11. None of the students from the many classes I taught in previous semesters ever knew that I held any strong convictions about 9/11, unless they encountered them outside of the classroom — which as far as I know none of them did, since Nass had not yet forced them on the world at large.
At the time, I called your attention to the fact that your op-ed was based on a false premise. Your response, as I recall, was evasive.
Having admired the clarity of thought displayed in many of your writings, I am disappointed by your confused response to the controversy about whether I had the right to express my strong convictions about 9/11 on my own time — not in the classroom — while teaching at the University of Wisconsin. A parallel confusion, it seems to me, informs the pages of “There’s No Such Thing As Free Speech.” In fact, there is such a thing as free speech, it is protected by the First Amendment and by the doctrine of academic freedom, it has been systematically violated since 9/11 (including in my case) and you have contributed significantly to its violation.
I propose that we spend an hour on the radio, half of it devoted to an exchange about why each of us hold the views we do about 9/11, and the other half about the question of free speech.
Thank you for considering this, and I look forward to hearing from you.
(phone number redacted)