A New Attack on Free Speech Is Insipid as Well as Vicious

February 17, 2021 2 min read

By  Edward L. Yingling, ’70, Secretary/Treasurer and  Stuart Taylor, Jr. ’70, President, Princetonians for Free Speech

The Daily Princetonian launched another lengthy McCarthyist attack on a Princeton professor on February 11, exactly one week after its original attack article on him, by publishing prominently an insipid, as well as cruel, personal attack framed as an opinion piece by Princeton senior Braden Flax, under a grossly misleading headline. Meanwhile, the newspaper has not even acknowledged a February 7 letter to the editor from a former long-term Princeton senior lecturer that criticized the February 4 article as “attempted character assassination.”

The Daily Princetonian’s February 4 attack on Professor Joshua Katz resulted from an unprecedented, seven-month investigation of his personal life. The attack followed an editorial in which the newspaper denounced the professor and complained the Princeton Administration had not taken take action against him for an article he had written that was clearly protected by Princeton’s established free speech policy. Katz’s letter had criticized parts of a letter sent by over 300 Princeton faculty and staff making allegations of racism at Princeton and containing numerous demands on the Administration. In an editorial on February 6, Princetonians for Free Speech accused the Daily Princetonian of blatant McCarthyism for undertaking an unprecedented investigation of a professor at the same time it was calling on the Administration to take action against him for expressing views the newspaper strongly disagrees with.  Our editorial pointed out that this effort by the newspaper is designed to send a message to faculty and students that if you dare express views the newspaper disagrees with you are in danger of being personally attacked.

The Flax opinion piece, while saying that the “claims have not been definitively confirmed,” then proceeds to rehash and exaggerate the charges in the February 4 article and throw in some nasty name-calling and amateur psychology as well.  It also carries on the original article’s practice of attack by innuendo.  We doubt very seriously the Daily Princetonian would have printed an opinion piece on any professor of whose views it approved that contained such name calling and personal attacks. 

The Flax attack also continues the original hit piece’s attack on freedom of speech by suggesting that a professor who dares to disagree forcefully with the type of campus orthodoxy endorsed by the Daily Princetonian should not have been allowed to “ascend to a position of prominence and influence” at the university.

While the Daily Princetonian continues its attacks, it has still not answered the key question we posed in our previous Princetonians for Free Speech editorial: Show us where in the history of the newspaper you have undertaken such a lengthy investigation into the personal life of a professor whose views were acceptable to you.  If you cannot do that, then it is proof positive that the investigation and the on-going attacks are politically motivated and corrupt.

Another question:  What does the Daily Princetonian’s Board of Trustees think of the transformation of the paper by its current leadership into an ideologically driven vehicle to squash free speech and academic freedom?

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