Over a year after 9/11, and exactly a year after the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, Kristine McNeil in The Nation Magazine (1) reported that it had brought “an ever-growing enemies list from our nation’s thought police.” It started with the ACTA report, which purported “to advocate the preservation of academic freedom and dissent while being all about suppressing both when the views expressed conflict with blind support for US foreign policy.” The ACTA report was just the start of organized attacks on the Left and the anti-war movement in the universities by these organizations of the Academic Right. Another target of this was solidarity with Palestine.
One blacklisting project that started in the post-9/11 era was Campus Watch, a part of the right wing Middle East Forum. It is led by Daniel Pipes, a prominent anti-Arab propagandist. It first listed names of professors and their quotes of professors who were critical of Israel, similar to the Defending Civilization report from ACTA. After it received criticism it changed its format. Some feared that it would use its information to invoke the USA Patriot Act to charge some of its opponents with terrorism.
The purpose again was to stifle debate on foreign policy in Iraq and in the Israel-Palestine conflict. With the growth of the anti-war movement, the issue of Israel and Palestine was becoming prominent. Also, Pipes and his ilk, in their attacks on the studies of Islamist movements, attempted to direct them into a more pro-Bush administration agenda.
A main target was Middle East Studies, intending to turn these programs int a tool to be used by the American military. Edward Said came under attack. Others had their patriotism attacked.
The project still exists today. You can go to the site yourself at campus-watch.org to read its hysterics. They have also directed their attacks at students and others in the campus community for supporting the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestine.
The Zionists have long targeted their enemies. In the 1970’s the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) formed the Political Leadership Development Program, enlisting students to collect information on pro-Palestinian professors.
In the years to come, more attacks on campus happened. David Horowitz continued his blitzkrieg on American campuses, releasing a book about 101 professors he deemed treasonous. Ward Churchill was forced from his job for critical words on US foreign policy right after 9/11, but attacked years later.
Another group that formed was founded by William Bennett, the Americans for Victory Over Terrorism. The did a survey of college students on terrorism, war, and Americanism.
These were all part of the broader right wing agenda. The Project for a New American Century rose to prominence. The Heritage Foundation has always been a driver of the conservative movement. Others include the Defense Policy Board and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. All promoted the expansion of the American empire. The universities were targeted because of its potential for dissent and also for the resources used for official policy for state and corporate power.
For every defeat we have victories in the struggle. To get enemies shows that the movements were being effective. These reactionary attacks on the community of higher education will continue. Having a sense of history will make progressive better prepared to fight them.
- McNeil, Kristine . “The War on Academic Freedom.” The Nation. November 11, 2002. https://www.thenation.com/article/war-academic-freedom/.