Andrew – I think I’m more in Kathryn’s camp. I certainly understand the argument for ignoring pests and buffoons. But the fact is this guy is an educator. The left understands the value of creating a social cost for violating their taboos. A professor who advocated desecrating the image of, say, Martin Luther King Jr. in a similar way (which would be idiotic and offensive, for the record) would lose his job and his career. But such repugnant disrespect for more traditional icons is routinely considered clever and insightful in our intellectual culture. And that, quite simply, is a very bad thing which should be resisted.
I remember Morton Kondracke arguing that Ward Churchill shouldn’t lose his job because he’s more valuable as a teaching example of the stupidity of the hard academic left. I always thought that was a monumental cop-out for, among other reasons, it would allow Churchill’s views to get wider circulation (it also meant that tax payers should pay the guy’s salary). Moreover, Kondracke assumed that Churchill was somehow a lone voice out there and therefore a harmless conversation piece. The truth is that Churchill, while more shrill than most, actually speaks for a significant constituency that controls some very valuable strategic territory in the culture war. Taking the high road, as you suggest, basically gives these bandersnatches a free pass. I think that’s counter-productive and possibly suicidal. If you don’t argue with bigotry and stupidity you allow people to believe that bigotry and stupidity are acceptable — particularly when it’s spouted by credentialed academics.
Now, tactically, you may be right in this instance or in others like it. Sometimes letting idiots indict themselves is the wisest course. But that’s a prudential argument. In the bigger scheme of things this sort of thing must be combated because if it’s not, it could very well win the whole shebang.
Clearly — or at least I hope it’s clear — I don’t advocate fighting fire with fire. We don’t need to adopt the theatrical disrespect and rudeness that many on the left have. But just because you don’t want to fight fire with fire, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fight it at all. Conservatives should fight fire with … water.