Right-wing attack on professors

Prof. William Cronon
Prof. William Cronon

Here's a story told in a way you won't hear it anywhere else.  Right-wing politicians and think tanks are basically trying to raid the emails of college professors in a misguided and offensive effort to stifle the progressive arm of American politics and government.

The right-wing Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Michigan has submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act.  They want the Labor Relations Departments of 3 Michigan universities to produce all e-mails relating to the Wisconsin labor situation--the one we've been featuring here on The Ed Show for weeks. 

Now, it is perfectly legal to make this kind of FOIA request, though it may be litigated.  Academics say this FOIA request is unusually broad and nearly without precedent.

One professor who is subject to the FOIA request put it this way: 

"[They're] going after folks they don't agree with."

Another professor said:

"I've been an educator since the early 1980s and I've never had a FOIA request."

It's far from an isolated incident.  There's a pattern emerging.  Last week, history professor at the University of Wisconsin William Cronon, was hit with a FOIA request from the Wisconsin Republican party.  They want Cronon's emails relating to labor unions or labor leaders.

Mr. Cronon had just criticized Wisconsin Republicans, and Gov. Scott Walker, on his blog.  Starting to get the picture?  These are political operators going after academics who might espouse a liberal or progressive philosophy.  These highly unusual FOIA requests are meant to intimidate--pure and simple.  These political operatives want to pick the brains of people they see as their philosophical opponents, and that's not all ...

As Dave Weigel puts it:

"In 2010, the Mackinac Center published a litany of problems with labor centers, arguing that they were basically taxpayer funded organizing hubs for the Left … When you hear Newt Gingrich talk about "defunding the left", this is one of the things he’s talking about.” 

By the way, as we told you last week, the Mackinac Center is funded, in part, by the Koch Foundation a.k.a. the Koch brothers.