Bruce Gilley is a respected scholar. Four distinguished universities (Cambridge, Columbia, California and Georgetown) have published books he has authored or edited. I counted a dozen entries of his in Google Scholar with more than 100 citations each. He is a professor of political science at Portland State University.
However, academics on the left are trying to cancel Gilley, impeding his dissemination of ideas. As he recounts in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, Gilleys latest book, The Last Imperialist: Sir Alan Burns Epic Defense of the British Empire, was withdrawn from publication by Rowman & Littlefield shortly before copies were to be shipped, because the book offended a Maoist philosopher at the University of York, Joshua Moufawad-Paul, author of The Communist Necessity, who mounted a massive protest to the publisher. An earlier article on The Case for Colonialism was withdrawn from an academic journal because of a global petition campaign (!!) by Farhana Sultana, an associate professor of geography at Syracuse who, according to Gilley, also tried to get Princeton to revoke his Ph.D.
Why? Presumably because Gilley believes that colonial powers like Britain often did some good, promoting concepts like democracy, the rule of law, and private property rights. To what might be called the Academic Talibans, this is unacceptable. Only views consistent with the far left weltgeist are to be tolerated on campus. In the spirit of the Taliban or the anti-Enlightenment Spanish Inquisition, professors like Paul and Sultana believe that we must suppress viewpoints deemed heretical.
Meanwhile, a much liked (according to RateMyProfessor) professor at Saint Johns University, Richard Taylor, has apparently been removed mid-term. His sin? He taught that in the Age of Discovery surrounding Christopher Columbus, there were good and bad dimensions: a growing slave trade (bad), but expanding commodity trading, income, and opportunities for Europeans (good). He asked: which were greater, the good or the bad? Good question I think. But the radical left says not only was it bad, but even hinting at anything else is impermissible. Yet many of us believe universities are about answering questions like that one, involving moral or economic trade-offs. Taylor also committed other sins, including serving in the Marine Corps and as a New York policemanshame!
To be sure, the likes of the Pauls and Sultanas have not conquered academia, but their intimidation of scholars certainly is growing. The Cancel Culture was nearly nonexistent a decade or so ago, but now is a substantial force. A softer form of it is increasingly commonplace: professors are asked to sign loyalty oath-like statements showing commitments to diversity and inclusion, for example, or pressured to agree that racism is systemic, and are no doubt ostracized if they simply do not accept that premise. If you want to be a respected member of the university community, you must agree with the views of the more enlightened woke members of the community. or become an Academic Untouchable if allowed to stay.
What can be done to fight Academic Talibans suppressing free expression of ideas? First, adopt and vigorously support the Chicago Principles advocating unfettered free expression. Second, support organizations devoted to intellectual diversity and lively academic interaction: Heterodox Academy, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), and the National Association of Scholars, on whose board both Prof. Gilley and I serve. FIRE rates schools according to their commitment to free expression. Some organizations interested in promoting student scholarship (e.g., the Lumina or Charles Koch Foundations) should help fund the publicizing of these ratings, as well as supporting the other aforementioned organizations.
Third and probably even more effective, attack colleges who support the suppression and critical evaluation of alternative ideas financiallywithdraw support. The private foundations should take the lead in doing this, but most will not. They dont want to appear to be less than pristinely progressive. State government could reduce subsidies to schools violating the Chicago Principles. The federal government could issue a death sentence by withholding aid to students attending so-called private schools like St. Johns, or by denying tax deductions for gifts. I worry about government bureaucrats causing more harm than good, however, and would prefer the private sector confront this issue. Where is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for example?