Thomas Paine once said, “He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from opposition; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach himself.” How true these words are. One of the most fundamental reflections of liberty is the freedom to question, challenge and debate the world around us. This freedom does not exist everywhere in the United States and certainly not at the university level.
As a lifelong Kansan, it would be much less painful to talk about liberal bias in places like Berkeley or Columbia University, but unfortunately my example comes from the least likely of places expected for liberal bias, Kansas State University. It was here that I was hired to write a political opinion column for the college newspaper. I was not naïve to the Collegian’s historically antagonistic relationship with conservative writers. In my 2009 book, “Feeding Lions: Sharing The Conservative Philosophy in a Politically Hostile World,” I had documented the firing of fellow conservative writer Chuck Armstrong, who was sent packing by the Collegian after writing an article about radical Islam. Armstrong’s article, based on his radio interview with scholar Robert Spencer, was labeled as racist and the Collegian threw Paine’s words out the window.
When it appeared that I would be given the free speech go-ahead by the Collegian, I submitted months of my political writings to make sure they had full knowledge of my writing style and content. Collegian editorial staff told me that I was a superb writer and that they were happy to have me aboard. Despite what I had seen in the past, I forwarded my opinion column in the hopes of creating civil discourse on what I felt were important subjects. All the articles I wrote for the university newspaper were listed in the “Most Popular” category on the Collegian’s Web site. Reader comments were abundant and, might I add, heavily in the favor of my arguments−so far so good.
I wrote an insightful article in which I argued that Republicans have done more for minorities throughout history than Democrats. Within the article I had a small misstatement in which I said that Clarence Thomas, instead of Thurgood Marshall, was the first African-American appointed to the Supreme Court. Instead of simply correcting the misstatement as had been done in the past and moving on, I was sacrificed on the altar of liberalism. Collegian staff openly accused me of inventing facts and it was quickly apparent that forces were marshaling against me.
Communicated through e-mail and later a copy-and-paste version in the college paper, the Collegian said I was in error in my article and their support for such a charge was stated as, “George W. Bush was not the first president to fill two Cabinet posts with minority candidates. Bill Clinton appointed six minority secretaries: Jesse Brown and Togo West, Jr. to Veterans Affairs; Federico Peña to Transportation and Energy; Henry Cisneros to Housing and Urban Development; Ronald H. Brown to Commerce; and Alexis Herman to Labor.” The problem here is that I never made any statement to this effect. I wrote, “George W. Bush was the first to extensively fill influential Cabinet positions with minorities including Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Alberto Gonzales.” I explained to a very angry Collegian staff that Condoleezza Rice was the first African-American woman appointed as Secretary of State, Alberto Gonzales the first Hispanic appointed to the highest law enforcer position in the country as Attorney General, and Colin Powell also appointed as Secretary of State and the first African-American male to fill that position. I used the term “influential” and used it properly as these positions are the top spots in the president’s Cabinet. My explanation was nonchalantly shrugged off and I was called a liar.
By this time the Collegian was making a fool of itself but they went even further to purge their ranks of a conservative voice. I was told that I had lied when I said the following, “The Democratic Party, on the other hand, opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which outlawed school segregation and inequality in voter registration. Democrats led an excruciatingly long filibuster to deny civil rights to blacks, which was eventually defeated.” When I asked Collegian staff to legitimate this charge of lying, I was told that yes, Democrats had opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, but not all of them, and so I was a liar.
The Kansas State University Collegian gave me my walking papers, showed me the door and said my services were no longer needed. I was told that I was too dangerous to print. In fact, it was affirmed that I was so dangerous that there was true fear that I would bring down the entire university paper through litigation if I was allowed to continue to put pen to paper. If you think this sounds preposterous, you would be understating the situation. I wrote thought-provoking opinion articles that struck a chord with readers and ruffled the feathers of university liberals. Liquidating Ibbetson opinion articles in the Kansas State University Collegian avoided months of university liberals being brought to anger by inflammatory issues such as the Constitution, liberty, freedom and of course, God.
I wish to end this column with the same straightforward articulations I bring to all my writings. The Kansas State University Collegian has the right to hire whomever they want to write opinion articles, and I respect that right. However, I wish the staff would have been honest enough to say there was no place for strong conservative writers at their paper. While affirming the true existence of university liberal bias, they would have prevented a bunch of problems, and the necessity for this article. In the end we are brought back to the wise words of Thomas Paine−“He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from opposition; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach himself.” The Kansas State University Collegian may rue the day they reap what they sow.
Paul A. Ibbetson is a former Chief of Police of Cherryvale, Kansas, and member of the Montgomery County Drug Task Force. Paul received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Criminal Justice at Wichita State University, and is currently completing his Ph.D. in Sociology at Kansas State University. Paul is the author of the books “Living Under The Patriot Act: Educating A Society” and “Feeding Lions: Sharing The Conservative Philosophy In A Politically Hostile World.” Paul is also the radio host of the Kansas Broadcasting Association’s 2008, 2009 and 2010 Entertainment Program of the Year, Conscience of Kansas airing on KSDB Manhattan 91.9 FM, www.ibbetsonusa.com. For interviews or questions, please contact him at? [email protected]