Economist John H. Cochrane, a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford, has a commentary at his blog post, The cancel culture twitter mob comes to economics, where he discusses the actions taken against Harald Uhlig after a left-wing attack.
Uhlig, a University of Chicago professor, was also editor of the respected establishment publication Journal of Political Economy.
Uhlig questioned the soundness of defunding the police. That did it. “The race was on to call Uhlig a racist” notes Cochrane.
The JPE advisory board (Robert Shimer, Lars Hansen Steve Levitt and Philip J. Reny) announced that Uhlig would be placed on temporary leave pending the results of an investigation.
The specific charge cited by the advisory board came via a tweet:
@haralduhlig, I sat in your class in Winter 2014:
(1) You talked about scheduling a class on MLK Day
(2) You made fun of Dr. King and people honoring him
(3) You sarcastically asked me in front of everyone whether I was offended
Here is the receipt: @JustinWolfers @and_joy_
— Bocar A. Ba (@bocar_a) June 12, 2020
Cochrane explains his concern:
[T]he JPE, on Friday, was clearly not just responding this accusation. There is no way on this green earth that a tweet made on Thursday about a comment made in class six years ago leads to being suspended from the JPE on Friday, absent a mob demanding just that head for previous tweets about defunding the police. And an allegation of misbehavior in class would justify suspending Harald from teaching classes, maybe.
I spent much of my last few years of teaching afraid that I would say something that could be misunderstood and thus be offensive to someone. Many of my colleagues report the same worries. It is not good for open and honest communication in the classroom if a tweet about a comment six years ago can instantly destroy you.
Moreover, this is an extremely unusual action. I have known the JPE for 35 years. Not once that I am aware in this time has a JPE editor been publicly suspended for anything. There have been good editors and bad editors. There have been editors who found, improved, and published great papers, and editors who did not perform as well. Most of all there have been periodic crises caused by editors who let dozens if not hundreds of papers pile up, leaving many unattended to for years. Yes, those were eased out, and new editors came in to clean up the mess. Not one of these editors was ever publicly suspended. And no mention was made of any untoward action by Harald as editor — or even that there is or is contemplated any review of his performance as editor.
Why do I write? Sure, I’m just as afraid of the Red Guards of our twitter mob as the rest of you, and reluctant to offer contrary opinions. The Krugmans, Wolfers, and other assorted Jacobins are waiting for me to write or tweet one sentence that can be taken out of context and demand my head.
He then goes on to claim this about Stanford, the institution he is now affiliated with:
I doubt the upper levels of administration at Stanford have any more spine in defense of conservative and libertarian speech than do those of Chicago. But we must speak for free speech before it’s too late. If you donate money to a university, you have a special duty to speak up and let them know where you stand. Chicago in particular has a courageous statement in favor of free speech. Demand that they honor their fine words with courageous action. Others, like my Stanford don’t even have the courage to state it. Demand that they do.
At a time like this, when the Only Blacks Matter crowd is roaming, Cochrane has to be considered heroic for speaking up in support of free speech.