Academic freedom and the McCarthy instinct

One recent development in the United States that we should find alarming is the new tendency to investigate the political opinions of professors to see if the expression of these might offend someone’s sensibilities. This article in the Washington Post newspaper gives several example of (mostly conservative) organisations that have been attempting to get information about the political activities of academics with a view to asserting that these activities, if politically partisan, are in some way an abuse of their academic freedom.

Whether academic freedom should cover the expression of opinions that are unrelated to the academic’s area of expertise is something that can legitimately be debated, but professors like everyone else should have the right to express their opinions on political issues, and it is an abuse of fundamental rights to seek to restrict that, unless the opinions are in some ways an incitement to hatred or discrimination.

Political witch hunts are never good news for a liberal democratic society. Where they occur they need to be fought.

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One Comment on “Academic freedom and the McCarthy instinct”


  1. […] “One recent development in the United States that we should find alarming is the new tendency to investigate the political opinions of professors to see if the expression of these might offend someone’s sensibilities …” (more) […]


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