The recent convention of the National Communication Association in Baltimore sheds light on the way in which left-wing ideology has come to dominate American academia. (Photo source: iStock)
A recent gathering in Baltimore, Maryland sheds light on the way in which left-wing ideology has come to dominate American academia. Ironically, this particular event – a conference titled "Communication for Survival" -- was an example of stifling free speech, rather than conveying ideas other than those accepted as "politically correct" by the professors and graduate students in attendance.
Perhaps this was to be expected, given the topics under discussion at the 105th annual convention of the National Communication Association (NCA). These topics included:
- "Race Relations in Charm City: Communicating Social Justice."
- "Communication and Surviving in the Anthropocene: Keywords," which focused on "what the discipline of Communication may offer to consider how we entered this era of consequential anthropogenic climate change, the barriers we face to transform our culture, and which voices might help us bring about a more just and sustainable future."
- "Communication, Disability Justice, and Surviving Ableism," which examined the "centrality of communication practices to the pursuit of disability justice through anti-abelist scholarship and activism."
- "Communicating Survival in Violent Times: A Dialogue on the Intersections of Violence in Gendered, Sexual, Racial/Ethnic, and Class Contexts."
- "Communication and Surviving Environmental Racism."
- "Communication and #_______ing While Black or Brown," which addressed "experiences of hashtag activism but focuses specifically on the role of communication and that of our discipline as a means of constructing narratives around #____ing while black or brown."
During one session, at the mere suggestion that the immigration policies adopted by US President Donald Trump could be viewed as an important national-security measure aimed at controlling migration from countries rife with instability, extremism and terrorism -- on behalf of all Americans, Muslims and non-Muslims alike -- the outraged reaction from the participants was: "Anyone who supports Trump is a racist and a misogynist."
Another session was "Deconstructing Anti-Muslim Rhetoric in the Contemporary Political Climate: Beyond Survival, Toward Thriving" -- a series of six lectures by female academics hailing from different Muslim-majority countries (including Syria, Iran and the Palestinian Authority) who teach at universities across the US. These presenters described themselves as feminists, but sounded more like Islamist conservatives or apologists.
Each strongly defended Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, two radical Democratic Party Congresswomen backed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an organization with ties to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
All six speakers criticized the FBI for monitoring mosques, without mentioning that militant Islamists have been using Muslim houses of worship to hold clandestine meetings and plan terrorist operations.
It apparently did not occur to any of the academics that the FBI's surveillance is also geared towards protecting the Muslim community from terrorists in its midst. But to consider such a view might have prevented the participants from playing a victim card.
Notably, the suggestion that Muslims are not a homogeneous group, but rather individuals who do not all share the same political or religious ideology, elicited a harsh response on the part of the panelists, who silenced the discussion.
After the day's panels, the participants attended a dinner organized by the NCA, during the course of which one of the female lecturers verbally assaulted a New York-based foreign-policy analyst, Irina Tsukerman, calling her a "racist bitch."
To add to the insult, the NCA hosts did not intervene. On the contrary, one of the executives, Trevor Parry-Giles, joined the attack, berating Tsukerman for her "racist" writing and "suspicious" political views. This was after Tsukerman had presented a research paper explaining that Islamists, in cooperation with their Western allies, especially the media, are distorting the image of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a progressive modernist.
Tsukerman and another professor in attendance were then expelled from the conference.
All of the above prompted this author to speak to the NCA's president, Star Muir, and its vice president, Kent Ono. I pointed out to them that I am an Arab Muslim who does not accept what those lecturers referred to as "anti-Muslim rhetoric in the US," and that it is my right to question them. I told them I was canceling my NCA membership, on the grounds that I no longer felt safe participating in its conferences.
In an email to all members of the NCA a few days later, Muir accused Tsukerman, the banished professor and me and of having harassed and traumatized the lecturers by photographing and videotaping their presentations. Aside from the fact there had been no public prohibition announced requesting that no pictures be taken, that there were photographs in the documents distributed, and that only Tsukerman had taken some pictures (no video recordings), Muir lied. He falsely denied that I had been a member of the NCA, and also falsely claimed that I had "fled" the scene after Tsukerman and the professor were expelled.
After this announcement, a petition full of additional fabrications was circulated, referring to the lecturers as "minoritized colleagues," because they are Muslims, and describing us as "the same perpetrators that stalked, harassed, and threatened these scholars at the Intercaucus Reception."
The petition went as far as to state that the expelled professor, who had been a member of the NCA for 17 years, confronted the "minoritized scholars" the day after the dinner party, and -- also falsely as well as melodramatically -- that they were afraid he was armed with a weapon, which caused them to be "deeply shaken."
The petition, which conveniently omitted that I am a Muslim, went so far as to refer to my remarks (in the Q&A session of one of the panels) as "racist."
This is not the first time that the NCA has expelled academics from its conferences for holding what it regards as unacceptable political positions. Richard Vatz, Distinguished Professor at Towson University, and Rod Carveth, Associate Professor of journalism and communication at Morgan State University, were suspended from the NCA Listserv over supposedly "racist" and "nativist" views on immigration.
This form of intellectual bullying is extremely dangerous, particularly in the United States, where freedom of speech is enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution. It is unconscionable that outright lies, smears and character assassination are being used to victimize and indoctrinate young students to prevent them from hearing different points of view.
Najat AlSaied is a Saudi-American independent academic researcher in political communication and development.