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Summers Incident a Hoax?


The banning of Lawrence Summers from UC Davis in the wake of a petition drive by campus feminists has been widely discussed, especially on the right-leaning side of the blogosphere. Yet evidence suggesting that the entire Summers–UC Davis affair may be some kind of hoax now mounts. This past Sunday, Jonathan Glater reviewed recent free speech controversies in The New York Times, noting that:

In the last two weeks alone, ugly spats over speech have erupted at the University of California at Irvine [Chemerinsky]; at Stanford University [Rumsfeld]; and at Columbia University [Ahmadinejad].

Notice that the newspaper of record has entirely omitted any mention of the Summers episode. That has got to be considered prima facie evidence that the Summers incident never actually took place. True, according to Stuart Taylor:

The silencing of Summers was easy to miss. The Washington Post did not report it. The New York Times gave it three sentences. The Los Angeles Times ignored it, except for one nonstaff op-ed.

By contrast, the briefly martyred Chemerinsky — who was hired, fired (based on conservative complaints about his political views), and rehired (thanks in part to free-speech conservative support) as founding dean of a new law school at UC Irvine — inspired 17 articles and editorials in the Los Angeles Times, two articles and an outraged editorial in The New York Times, and one article in The Washington Post.

But has Taylor considered that the Post’s failure to report the Summers incident suggests that the incident itself may never have taken place? Granted, the Times devoted three lines to the Summers story, but Taylor never tells us exactly what those three lines were. Moreover, the fact that Glater’s Sunday Week in Review article omitted the Summers story entirely suggests that, after further investigation, the Times may have concluded that the entire Summers incident was a figment of some conservative blogger’s imagination.

On a related note, conservatives reacted with fury to the alleged disparity between Columbia University’s treatment of Jim Gilchrist and its invitation to Ahmadinejad. Yet Sunday’s Washington Post makes it clear that Columbia President Lee Bollinger disciplined those students. Granted, the Post’s account has been challenged by Peter Wood, but Wood is a blogger, whereas The Washington Post is a respected national institution.

Put this evidence together, and the conclusion is clear. We are all being hoaxed. There are only two possibilities. Either the Summers–UC Davis incident never took place, and Bollinger handled the Gilchrist case firmly and responsibly, or the notion that “the record” is responsibly summarized by our major national newspapers is somehow fraudulent. Since the latter is unthinkable, it stands to reason that the Summers–UC Davis incident must never have taken place.


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