Midwestern State University in Texas Professor Nathan Jun has triggered a free speech fight in Texas after a series of unhinged, hateful statements on social media. Wearing an Antifa teeshirt on social media, Jun has lashed out at police, capitalists, and politicians. His views are extreme and offensive. They are also, in my view, entirely protected. Much like the banning of Louis Farrakhan discussed yesterday, Jun is the test of our true commitment to free speech. By supporting this right to speak, we support the right of everyone, including the vast majority who view Jun’s comments as deeply unsettling and obnoxious.
I recently testified in the Senate on Antifa and its growing popularity on our campuses with both faculty and students, including my own campus. Antifa is an openly violent and vehemently anti-free speech movement — views that should make it anathema for any intellectual or academic.
Jun however is the very face of Antifa: intolerant, intimidating, and rageful. Even among extremists within Antifa, Jun is a standout. He has called for the abolishing of police and thrilled supporters in calling for the killing of officers. Last month, KFDX noted comments by Jun, including “I want the entire world to burn until the last cop is strangled with the intestines of the last capitalist, who is strangled in turn with the intestines of the last politician.”
The line was clearly a paraphrasing of the famous statement by Denis Diderot that “Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.”
Hundreds have supported Jun including a graduate student association that suggested that the opposition to his comments were the result of anti-semitism and attacks on “otherism”:
“[Dr. Jun] is not a terrorist or anything of the kind. He is of Polish Jewish descent, and the grandson of Holocaust survivors. Given Dr. Jun’s background, we cannot help but see the anti-Semitic overtones of an angry conservative mob in a region politically dominated by evangelical Christianity, singling out Dr. Jun as an enemy ‘other.'”
Putting aside his hatred for police and capitalists, what is interesting about this statement is Jun’s desire to have a system without politicians. He stated “I do long to live in a world in which we no longer have cops, which we no longer have capitalists and which we no longer have politicians. Because those are my political beliefs and I own them and I make no apologies for those beliefs.”
Of course a system without politicians would mean a country without democratic processes. That would seem to be a call for authoritarian rule or the “withering away” of the State under Marxism. Friedrich Engels stated in Anti-Dühring:
The interference of the state power in social relations becomes superfluous in one sphere after another, and then ceases of itself. The government of persons is replaced by the administration of things and the direction of the processes of production. The state is not “abolished”, it withers away.
Again, such views should be entirely protected. ndeed I view them as welcomed on a campus where the diversity of ideas is the very foundation for learning. Unfortunately, Jun’s apparent embrace of Antifa puts him at odds with such diversity of thought. We have been discussing the comprehensive effort, from classrooms to newsrooms, to enforce a new orthodoxy in public discourse. Antifa furthers this movement by adding a menacing element of violence. It often seeks to trigger violent confrontations, particularly with the police. It is all part of achieving what Antifa calls “no platforming,” or denying people with opposing views the ability to be heard.
Dartmouth Professor Mark Bray, the author of a book entitled “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook” is one of the chief enablers of these protesters. Bray speaks positively of the effort to supplant traditional views of free speech: “At the heart of the anti-fascist outlook is a rejection of the classical liberal phrase that says I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” He defines anti-fascists as “illiberal” who reject the notion that far right views deserve to “coexist” with opposing views.
Jun’s unhinged ravings come right out of the “Antifa Handbook.” Yet, while supporting the most prominent anti-free speech movement in the United States, Jun has denounced the university for failing to support his right to free speech while seeking money on GoFundMe:
“Throughout all of this, my employer exhibited an utterly callous disregard for my safety and well-being, making no effort whatsoever to defend me (either privately or publicly) or to protect my rights more generally. Instead, the president of the university administration eventually broke her prolonged radio silence by sending me a terse email alleging that I had ‘violated the university’s academic freedom and responsibility policy’ and implicitly threatening me with reprisal if I continued to speak out publicly on issues of race and racism.”
Jun has objected that people are calling for his own death after he called for the death of every single police officer.
Putting aside his glaring hypocrisy over free speech, Jun is indeed protected by both free speech and academic freedom. To its credit, the Foundation for Individual Rights for Education (FIRE) has helped him and sent a letter to Midwestern University President Suzanne Shipley to defend his right to speak.
This month in a Facebook post on October 1, Shipley called Nun’s post “abhorrent and disgusting,” as well as “antithetical to our institutional values.” She added:
“That being said, please know this: we have conferred with and are being capably advised by the office of the Attorney General of the State of Texas. We are committed to monitoring this situation with their guidance and will take decisive action if a line is crossed beyond that of speech protected by the First Amendment. Additionally, no students will be required to enroll in or complete Professor Jun’s courses. Alternatives will be provided even now if the student requests them.”
So long as Jun is speaking outside of the school as a private person, I do not see the line being crossed. I only wish that Jun showed the same tolerance for opposing views. Instead he has openly supported Antifa which has engaged in violence against speakers and fellow academics as part of its “no platforming” agenda. However, we cannot let his hateful and hypocritical statements deter us from protecting the values that Antifa seeks to destroy. Ironically, his case could be important to support free speech against people like himself. He can then continue to spew his intolerant ideas and thrill supporters with his violent ideations. Jun is the price we pay for free speech.