Thursday, May 9, 2013

Harvard Economist/Historian/Bigot (Take Your Pick) Niall Ferguson Responds to Criticism of His Self Described Stupid Remarks

He is Outraged, Outraged That He is Being Criticized, Not Forgiven and Not Treated as Nice Person

Earlier this Forum joined a large number of other commentators in condemning Harvard Professor and scholar Niall Ferguson for his remarks on  John Maynard Keynes.  Mr. Ferguson argued that Keynes's sexual orientation (and the fact that he may have talked “poetry” with his wife) were an explanation of his economic policy.  The comments were highly bigoted and prejudicial, and even worse, just plain wrong.

Now it turns out that Mr. Ferguson is furious, just furious that people are criticizing him for his remarks.  Some of his arguments are that (1) everybody does this (no Mr. Ferguson, everybody does not), (2) Keynes himself uttered  politically incorrect thoughts, and (3) he is not a bigot (generally, if one has to proclaim that it usually means they are) and so forth.

But what really bothers Mr. Ferguson is the criticism, that no one is willing to just let his offensive remarks just slide by, that he is not “forgiven” and hailed as a jolly good fellow who just happened to utter something that he didn’t believe and that he himself admits was stupid.

Shock, horror: Even the mighty Keynes occasionally said stupid things. 

Most professors do. And—let's face it—so do most students.

What the self-appointed speech police of the blogosphere forget is that to err occasionally is an integral part of the learning process. And one of the things I learnt from my stupidity last week is that those who seek to demonize error, rather than forgive it, are among the most insidious enemies of academic freedom.

See Mr. Ferguson is the righteous one here, the rest of us, ignorant destroyers. (He is right about the author of this Forum being self-appointed.  The Dismal Political Economist sought an appointment from an outside agency to be an official Speech Policeman of the Blogosphere but was denied on the grounds that he was too snarky.)

There is still, regrettably, a great deal of prejudice in the world, racial as well as sexual. There are two strategies we may adopt. One is repression—the old Victorian practice of simply not talking about such things. The other is education. In my writing and teaching, I have labored long and hard to expose precisely what was wrong about the theories that condemned homosexuals, Jews and others to discrimination and death. I have also tried to explain what made those theories so lethally appealing.

The War of the World concludes: “We shall avoid another century of conflict only if we understand the forces that caused the last one—the dark forces that conjure up ethnic conflict and imperial rivalry out of economic crisis, and in doing so negate our common humanity.”

I doubt very much that any of my vituperative online critics have made a comparable effort to understand the nature and dire consequences of prejudice. For the self-appointed inquisitors of internet, it is always easier to accuse than seriously to inquire.

Well, we would like to inquire for example about what makes a person like Mr. Ferguson utter vile and ignorant comments, hide behind his self described but contradicted dislike of prejudice and certainly everyone wants to know how he obtained a level of arrogance that allows him to say his critics, rather than himself are to blame for his utterances.

Bigoted speech does not just pop into one's mind.  Mr. Ferguson is the one who needs to do the inquiring, specifically, inquiring as to how someone who thinks he is an enemy of prejudice can actually have a set of bigoted beliefs and be willing to spew them in public.  Only Mr. Ferguson can explain this, so Niall, do your own inquiring before castigating others.  Let us know the results, we are looking forward to an explanation.

1 comment:

  1. What a self-righteous, holier-than-thou windbag!