So it looks like controversial 9/11 conspiracy theorist Kevin Barrett won’t be exercising his academic-freedom rights at Wisconsin-Madison next semester. Has he been asked to step down after teaching bizarre theories that are not germane to an “Islam: Religion and Culture” course? Has the university decided that his scholarship is shoddy? Apparently not. Apparently his hiatus is entirely the result of scheduling quirks. Barrett, you see, is eager to teach the class again, but the university only offers it in the fall. He will “absolutely” apply to teach again next school year.
As the semester winds down, what was the experience like? After all they hype, was Barrett a bad teacher? Did he really infect his classes with propaganda at the expense of scholarship, or did he “merely” inform the class of alternative theories, and let the students decide for themselves? An interesting story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel gives us a window into the Barrett classroom. According to the paper, Barrett closed his “fourth and final lecture on the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks” with the following scholarly observation: “Your tax dollars are paying for the killing of American soldiers in Iraq. The CIA is paying for resistance in Iraq.”
But wait, there’s more. After discussing the works of Muslim writers who believed the 9/11 attacks were actually the work of terrorists:
“Barrett then moved on to an essay by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, who argues that the Sept. 11 attackers were part of a broad network of terrorism sponsored by the United States and other Western intelligence agencies. Ahmed argues that the U.S. has used terrorism to destabilize other countries and gain control over their resources.
“In his lecture, Barrett sprinkled in the phrase according to this analysis periodically at the end of his sentences. But he stated much of Ahmed’s argument as fact and offered up his own views or observations to bolster the claims.
“On the conventional idea that terrorists were motivated by their belief in Islam, Barrett said: “That’s simply not true. That story gets blown out of the water.”
“On Ahmed’s writings, he said at one point: “This is all standard narrative. What he’s said so far, no one disputes.”
“Ahmed ends his essay by arguing that the U.S. is attempting “to exacerbate the deterioration of security by penetrating, manipulating, and arming the terrorist insurgency, thus legitimizing permanent Anglo-American military involvement in Iraq purportedly to promote security.”’
Of course this drivel had no impact on his students, right? Not so fast. At least one student, Jesse Moya, seems to have been persuaded: “Moya, who said his uncle died in the World Trade Center attacks, said he had entered the course believing the attacks were the work of Islamic terrorists. He now believes otherwise. ‘It seems like a more logical explanation that it was the U.S. government,’ he said.” I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised if Barrett changed some minds. After all, according to AAUP General Secretary Roger Bowen, 9/11 conspiracy theorists like Barrett are “speak[ing] truth to power.”