A Gathering of Galileos

Published: 2014-07-14
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It took the Church a long time to decide Galileo Galilei’s advocacy of heliocentrism (the idea that the earth revolved around the sun, instead of vice-versa) was heretical. Galileo was already 52 when he committed what turned out to be his signature heresy, and 68 when he was sentenced to life imprisonment with a ban imposed on everything he had written, and on himself against writing anything further (he wrote and published one of his finest works during the nine years he remained alive, under this ban).

The advancing age of many of the participants in “Academic Freedom: JFK, 9/11 and the Holocaust,” held April 26 in a conference room on the campus of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, was apparent.

Visually the youngest participant was David Robinson, who was also the only academic present who had not by Conference time retired or been fired. Accordingly, his present academic affiliation was not stated in the write-up on him. Likewise, his presentation concerned a case in (breach of) academic freedom that closed before his career began, involved no people who knew him and no institutions he has ever been connected with, and concerned none of the three subjects (911, the Holocaust, and JFK’s assassination) mentioned in the publicity on the conference. It was interesting as history, but connections to today’s issues were tenuous at best.

At 55, Kevin Barrett, Ph.D., also failed to qualify for the geriatric generality offered above. His academic career, mainly at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, does not seem quite that of a committed academic, if only by reason of the fact that he ran for Congress in 2008 from Wisconsin. Either way, his presentation, “Facts, Insults and Academic Freedom,” played on the refusal of the University of Wisconsin to renew his teaching (English, French, Arabic, American Civilization, Humanities, African Literature, Folklore, and Islam—he is a convert to Islam) after he vigorously and publicly promoted the assertion that the events of September 11, 2001, were a government put-up job, and in no way involved any Muslims, in airplanes or elsewhere. He has since written extensively on the Holocaust tradition in a vein markedly similar to that in which he treats the events of 9/11.

The only non-American to participate, and his participation in any case was virtual, by Skype from his home city of London, was sixty-seven-year-old Nicholas Kollerstrom, Ph.D., whose institution, University College London, fired him less than a year after his heresy, which was to publish an article in the September 2008 issue of Smith’s Report titled “Leuchter Twenty Years On,” concerning the famous investigations conducted in 1988 at Auschwitz by Fred Leuchter. Kollerstrom’s presentation, “Research on the Holocaust Can Be Hazardous to Your Career,” was immediate, personal, and got straight to the heart of the matter under discussion. Hazardous, indeed; today, Dr. Kollerstrom has no institutional affiliation. He probably couldn’t get one if he wanted it.

Stephen Francis, the conference’s facilitator, likewise got to the heart of the matter, but he did so as a “consumer” of history, not as a “producer” of it. That is, he did not claim the “license” that seems to be required to produce history, a doctoral degree and an academic post. Mr. Francis’s livelihood came from activities not involving history, so he was not in the ranks of the professionally “wounded” that included Dr. Kollerstrom and two of the remaining three participants listed below. His presentation was titled “Getting History Right: There Should Be No Limits to Inquiry.”

Whitney Abbe, Ph.D., retired from his academic career at the University of Georgia on the faculty of the physics department in 1978. Between the (purely) scientific nature of his subject and his retirement before he publicized his interest in academic corruption at his former employer, he also escaped the scathing that enveloped the veterans mentioned below. His presentation, “Violations of Academic Freedom at the University of Georgia,” did not concern the Holocaust, nor either of the other issues advertised for the conference. It essentially concerned academic politics and chicanery, not academic freedom.

The conference’s “sponsor” might be said to be James Fetzer, Ph.D., a colleague of Dr. Barrett’s at the Veterans Today website. Dr. Fetzer is a veteran in the conventional sense, of the US Marine Corps, and as a veteran of the academic-freedom wars, he clings to the title of McKnight Professor Emeritus at the University of Minnesota at Duluth despite his truth-seeking publications in the matters of the assassination of President John Kennedy, the events of 9/11, and the violent death of Senator Wellstone of Minnesota. Of his many publications, an article on Veterans Today bears the particularly interesting title of “Anti-anti-Semitism and the Search of Historical Truth.” His presentation, “Are there limits to inquiry? JFK, 9/11 and the Holocaust,” quite thoroughly summed up the issues discussed at this conference.

It is a bellwether for good that Galileos may gather on a college campus today to present these issues. Since it was entirely a video(ed) conference, it continues to be, today, tomorrow, as long as it’s hosted on an Internet server, right here: http://tinyurl.com/obqcrom

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Author(s) Jett Rucker
Title A Gathering of Galileos
Sources Smith's Report, No. 207, July 2014, pp. 3f.
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Dates published: 2014-07-14, first posted on CODOH: July 13, 2014, 7 p.m., last revision: n/a
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