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Tuesday, May 17, 2011 Previous | Next

"Electronic Brownshirts": Pt. 2 of Judy Ancel on the Right-Wing Attack on Labor Professors

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We continue our conversation with University of Missouri professor and labor activist Judy Ancel about the growing right-wing attacks on public education and the atmosphere of fear they produce. "The attack on labor education is an attack on academic freedom," says Ancel.

Watch Pt. 1 of the interview here.

AMY GOODMAN: Put this in a broader context, if you will, the issue of what is happening in this country around labor, around academia.

JUDY ANCEL: Well, first off, let me say that these kinds of attacks are the equivalent of electronic brownshirts. They create so much fear, and they are so directed against anything that is progressive — the right to an education, the rights of unions, the rights of working people — I see, are all part of an overall attack to silence the majority of people and create the kind of climate of fear that allows for us to move very, very sharply to the right. And it’s very frightening.

AMY GOODMAN: And how this fits into the whole attack on public unions? You’re a labor professor.

JUDY ANCEL: I’m a public employee. I work for a public university. The labor education programs throughout the country are almost entirely in public universities. And of course they’re going to attack the most vulnerable parts of those universities as a way of getting at all of education. I really believe that.

Let me also just say that one of the really important organizations to defend us was the American Association of University Professors. They really understood that the attack on labor education is an attack on academic freedom, and they were the first to speak out about it.

AMY GOODMAN: The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has made public records requests for emails from the Labor Studies Departments at Michigan State University, also at Wayne State.

JUDY ANCEL: Mm-hmm.

AMY GOODMAN: And the Republican Party in Wisconsin made similar requests of labor professors at the University of Wisconsin.

JUDY ANCEL: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain all of this, what’s happened.

JUDY ANCEL: Yeah. Well, I know my colleagues at the University of Michigan were asked to produce all emails that mention the word "Wisconsin." And this is — not only is this a violation of their ability to do their jobs and their rights to privacy, I believe, but it is also a huge attack on their programs because of the amount of staff time it takes to produce the records requests. These kinds of records requests have actually been going on for a number of years, through requests by the Landmark Legal Foundation, which has been demanding that labor education programs produce all their records, all their financial records and what they do. And these are ongoing attacks. So, this is nothing new.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, didn’t Andrew Breitbart announce his intentions of what he was going to do? This according to Labor Notes

JUDY ANCEL: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: — announced his intentions on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show April 18th, saying, "We are going to take on education next, go after the teachers and the union organizers."

JUDY ANCEL: That’s right. That’s right. I found that. Right after the attack, I started researching Breitbart, and I found that. And I said, "Oh, my gosh."

AMY GOODMAN: Is this going to make teachers afraid to do this kind of —

JUDY ANCEL: Absolutely.

AMY GOODMAN: —- long-distance learning, where you are being -—

JUDY ANCEL: It’s not just long-distance learning.

AMY GOODMAN: — sent through video conference, so that students can access you in different campuses.

JUDY ANCEL: It’s every classroom, Amy. And student with a flip camera can walk into a classroom and tape a teacher today and then edit the videos and do a similar kind of hatchet job. All teachers feel this. And that’s one of the reasons why faculty at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, after Don was fired, faculty began to organize. They may reinvigorate their AAUP chapter on campus just because of this incident. People are scared.

AMY GOODMAN: American Association of Union Professors.

JUDY ANCEL: Yeah, yeah, of University Professors.

AMY GOODMAN: Of University Professors.

JUDY ANCEL: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: Judy Ancel, thanks so much for being with us. Judy Ancel is director of the Institute for Labor Studies, University of Missouri-Kansas City, longtime labor activist. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. And I should also say, longtime supporter of KKFI in Kansas City, and programmer, as well, the community radio station in Kansas City.

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