We were outraged to learn about the recent attack on our friend and colleague Judy Ancel, by the unscrupulously malignant Andrew Breitbart. The right-wing blogger, best known for creating deceptive videos that undermined the community organizing group ACORN and US Department of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod, has found a new target: labor educators. Breitbart and his henchmen edited videos of several courses co-taught by Professor Ancel and adjunct instructor Don Giljum. The clumsily edited videos (in which the instructors magically change their clothing in the middle of their lectures!) purport to show Ancel and Giljum advocating violence by union members.
In her response to the attack, Ancel says:
These videos are no idle prank. They do real harm. Both Don and I are receiving threats and ugly and scary messages. There are death threats against us on Breitbart’s blog.
These videos are an attack on higher education and its mission to working adults, putting labor education programs at risk. They create fear and have an enormously chilling effect on freedom of thought and expression. They seek to undermine the academic freedom that is required to study, better understand, and hopefully improve our conditions of life….
These attacks on me, my colleague, and the students in my course are an affront to democracy and must be challenged by citizens, workers and students, or else they will continue.
While the provost of UM Kansas City denounced Breitbart’s video as “inaccurate and distorted,” officials at UM St. Louis demanded Giljum’s resignation. Hopefully they’ll reconsider that rash and cowardly move.
The American Association of University Professors issued a statement Thursday, strongly condemning Breitbart. AAUP general secretary Gary Rhoades writes:
Breitbart has a right to voice his views; he does not have a right to his own facts. He does not have a right to distort the class in ways that are evident in the video clips and that are detailed by Judy Ancel in her response to the attack. Neither does he have the right to trample on the academic freedom of professors and their students, nor on the privacy rights of students in their classroom work.
For more information, Labor Notes has a comprehensive article about the situation. Our thoughts and best wishes go out to Ancel and Giljum. Free thought and free expression are under attack today in this country. We all need to speak out while we still can.