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Sunday, December 18, 2005

Panda's Thumb's Gary Hurd on Paul Mirecki Situation


Paul Mirecki professor (and former chairman) of the University of Kansas Department of Religious Studies, reported that he was attacked by two men at about 6:30 AM on last Monday, 05/12/05. As one may observe from the link above, Panda’s Thumb has to date not discussed this issue beyond merely mentioning that it occurred. This was the result of considerable debate, hundreds of emails- many very heated, amongst the dozen or so of us who are regular contributors to the Thumb.

The religious right was not so restrained. Within hours, “conservatives” were claiming that Mirecki's report was false and that his injuries were faked Mirecki hospitalized after beating. Within two days William Dembski promoted the idea that Mirecki had faked the attack. The website Dembski directed his readers to also held the possibility that Mirecki was a drug addict and/or drug dealer;

Comment by Sean — Wed 7 Dec 2005 @ 6:39 am

I think it's most likely that he was beat up for some completely different reason, which would have been embarrassing, or even incriminating, for him to admit. A drug deal, perhaps.

Without any supporting evidence at all, or time to reflect, right-wing zealots began braying about Tawana Brawley and Al Sharpton, and comparing Mirecki with Kerri Francis Dunn. We have seen the far right employ this technique so often it is now known as "swift boating." I am reminded of the advice provided to the Army’s Airborne Rangers if captured, "Admit nothing, Deny everything, Make counter-accusations."

Later in the post he criticizes the University of Kansas administration for being cowardly and claims that the attackers were law enforcement officers. I'm with him when he criticizes the Kansas University administration. I disagree when he makes the claim that it was police officers who must have been the attackers.

Gerald Harbison, a conservative atheist has some good posts responding to this here and here. He documents wacky Freeper reaction to the beating here.

Now, the management of FReerepublic is quite aware of all of this. They have been alerted to several of the crasser posts, and have let them remain. Since Free Republic is usually willing to remove posts it disapproves of, and ban the offending poster, one can only assume Jim Robinson approves of the posts above. Indeed, only a month ago, a FReeper called dsc called for the use of bloodshed against academics who disparage religion. The moderators were alerted, and did nothing.
The moderators however today banned a Roman Catholic FReeper whose only offense, apparently, was to question the Christianity of the yobs quoted above
Unless the conservative movement purges itself of religious right wingnuts, Americans will recoil from the garbage I've quoted above. And one has to question the intelligence and the ethics of a web site owner who provides a forum for it.

He talks about how this will hurt Kansas here.

So Christian Fundamentalists have won their battle; they have suppressed free speech and academic freedom; may have physically intimidated a man who dared to mock them; and taken one further step towards a theocratic Kansas. How the large number of decent Kansans will react to this will decide the war; I predict when they realize what has been done, they will recoil, throw out their know-nothing School Board majority, and remove some of the more fringe nutcases from office. Kansas has been damaged already; but if its voters don't act quickly, it will be damaged far more and for a longer time. No intelligent person I know wants to live in a state where you can be hounded or beaten for a single injudicious comment, or for voicing your opinion.

I reserve most contempt, however, for the administrators of KU, who seem throughout to have run scared of the fundies; who have done little or nothing to stand up for academic freedom; and who seem to have pressured Mirecki to resign. Anyone considering studying or teaching at the University of Kansas should take note: if you go there, be prepared to keep your head down and not offend the mob.