Revenge of the comparative lit professors

The saga of the American flag ban at UC Irvine took another turn yesterday as about 60 campus professors signed a letter supporting the ban and calling opponents comments about the ban "racist and xenophobic."

“We write to support the six members who offered the resolution to remove national flags from the ASUCI lobby,” the letter reads. “The university ought to respect their political position and meet its obligation to protect and promote their safety. The resolution recognized that nationalism, including U.S. nationalism, often contributes to racism and xenophobia[.]”

“This is a more or less uncontroversial scholarly point, and in practice the resolution has drawn admiration nationally from much of the academic community,” the letter continues.

Prominent UC Irvine professors that allegedly signed the letter of support include James Porter, Professor of Classics; Virginia Jackson, UCI Endowed Chair in Rhetoric; Adriana Johnson, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature; Nasrin Rahimieh, Professor of Comparative Literature; and Luis Aviles, Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese.

The letter complains that since the resolution came to light, “UCI has been inundated with racist, xenophobic comments and death threats against the students from people who are, precisely, invested in the paraphernalia of nationalism,” and that UCI’s Facebook page has “filled up with violent and racist remarks” which its moderator did not delete.

Richard Pham, a senior majoring in History, told Campus Reform he was appalled to learn that UC Irvine professors supported the actions of the student council.

“What troubles me about the flag ban is that it restricts free speech," Pham said. "This is a public university, we are adults here, we’re here to discuss ideas civilly, and they are seeking to ban things.”

The signatories charge that UCI linked its communications to Fox News, which the letter describes as “a notoriously inaccurate media source associated with racism, xenophobia and U.S. nationalism,” and worry that UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman’s response will lead to further harassment.

A recent Quinnipiac University poll ranked Fox News as the most trusted cable news network in the country.

“We admire the courage of the resolution's supporters amid this environment of political immaturity and threat, and support them unequivocally,” the letter concludes.

The letter appears to originate from Rei Terada, a professor of Comparative Literature at UC Irvine.

It's not surprising that comp lit teachers would be so prevelant in an effort like this.  Perhaps no other academic field of study lends itself to overt expressions of anti-Americanism – largely because most comp lit professors seek to overturn established interpretations of literature and substitute a dark anti-Western, anti-American paradigm.

When the professors write of "nationalism" being the root of racism and xenophobia, what they really mean is that ultra-nationalism of the kind practiced by Nazi Germany and the Great Powers prior to World War I should be eradicated.  But they have no sense of proportion, and trying to equate the simple patriotism of ordinary Americans with fanatical Nazis is silly.

The ban was vetoed by school administrators and will probably not be overridden when the student government body convenes again.  But the incident will remain as a metaphor for campus stupidity and the stifling of free speech.

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