Hate Speech Is Not Free Speech

University professors enjoy the benefits of academic freedom and free speech. These cherished concepts are essential ingredients in the unhindered exchange and flow of ideas.

Joy Karega, a non-tenured assistant professor of rhetoric and composition at Oberlin College, a liberal arts institution in the state of Ohio, made an utter mockery of these hallowed principles by spewing out a toxic torrent of antisemitic screeds on her Facebook page.

Let’s be absolutely clear.

These rants could have been written by a neo-Nazi foaming at the mouth. They certainly have no place in civilized discourse. That they were posted by a woman of color is surprising and disappointing. African Americans, having been the victims of prejudice and violence, should be aware that racism is a malignancy that undermines and demeans society at large.

Has Karega fallen under the baneful influence of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan?

With her eyes wide open, she crossed a dangerous line and entered the realm of antisemitic incitement. Not for a second can she claim that her vile and ignorant comments are protected by the sanctity of the First Amendment.

She should be severely reprimanded, if not punished.

In a series of posts in the past few years, which she has since taken down, Karega issued a litany of baseless and absurd accusations.

She claimed that Israel was behind the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States and the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris in 2015. These are the kind of accusations that come from the filthy mouths of antisemites and Islamic radicals, who have a lot in common.

She asserted that Islamic State — a Sunni jihadist organization that has imposed a reign of terror in Iraq and Syria — is really an arm of the Mossad, the Israeli foreign intelligence agency, and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

As she wrote, “It’s troubling that in this day and age, where there is all this access to information, most of the general public doesn’t know who and what (IS) really is. I promise you, (IS) is not a jihadist, Islamic terrorist organization. It’s a CIA and Mossad operation and there’s too much information out there for the general public not to know this.”

She blamed Israel and “Rothschild-led bankers” for the downing of a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine in 2014, a despicable act widely attributed to pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists.

This outlandish post, in part, reads, “Hello there, my name is Jacob Rothschild. My family is worth $500 trillion. We own nearly every central bank in the world. We financed both sides of every war since Napoleon. We own your news, the media, your oil, and your government.”

Such arrant nonsense, the stuff of gutter rhetoric, has been propagated by czarist antisemites in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Nazis in Germany and a motley assortment of Jew haters in various countries since then.

Karega’s vicious remarks conform to the U.S. State Department’s definition of antisemitism: “Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as a collective — especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.”

Regrettably, Oberlin’s Jewish president reacted rather weakly to Karega’s fabricated history lessons.

Writing as a “practicing Jew” and the “grandson of an Orthodox rabbi,” Marvin Krislov expressed regret that she had offended “members of our community and beyond.” Then he went on to say that Oberlin “respects the right of its faculty, students, staff and alumni to express their personal views.”

At the very least, he could have condemned Karega, whose hateful insinuations and paranoid fantasies speak to her twisted mindset.

The chairman of Oberlin’s board of trustees, Clyde McGregor, was much more forthcoming.

He said:

“These postings are antisemitic and abhorrent. We deplore antisemitism and all other forms of bigotry. They have no place at Oberlin.

“These grave issues must be considered expeditiously. In consultation with President Marvin Krislov, the board has asked the administration and faculty to challenge the assertion that there is any justification for these repugnant postings and to report back to the board.

“From its founding, Oberlin College has stood for inclusion, respect, and tolerance. We still do.”

Oberlin will have to deal with this matter expeditiously and firmly. Karega, having egregiously besmirched Oberlin’s exemplary traditions and values, is a liability to a fine college.

Freedom of speech is one thing. Hate speech is quite another thing.

Oberlin should take this into consideration when Karega’s contract comes up for renewal.


About the Author
Sheldon Kirshner is a journalist in Toronto. He writes at his online journal, SheldonKirshner.com