In case you haven't heard the story, William Cronon is a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who has recently become a victim of persecution on the part of the state's Republicans. They are filing a lawsuit demanding access to Cronon's emails that contain words such as “Republican,” “collective bargaining,” “rally,” and “union.” You can find Cronon's blog that explains what happened and why here.
Of course, any thinking individual who values freedom of speech is appalled at this most recent show of contempt for the Constitution of the United States on the part of the GOP. However, some progressive journalists have taken a very strange approach to defending the right of a scholar to mention the word "union" in his emails. This is an excerpt from an article that The Nation, a magazine that I subscribe to and like, has published on the subject in its blog:
Many faculty members call themselves “Marxists” or “socialists,” and some describe themselves as “anarchists” or “revolutionaries”—but Cronon doesn’t. He’s not Bill Ayres, the education professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago who happily defends his Weatherman past. Cronon describes himself as a “centrist.” He says he’s never belonged to the Democratic (or the Republican) party.
How is it relevant at all whether Cronon is or is not a Marxist, an anarchist, a satan-worshipper or a creature from the Blue Lagoon? Are we to have different standards for people based on how they identify politically? Is a persecution of somebody who is politically centrist more egregious than the persecution of a radical? I couldn't care less about Cronon's politics in this situation. All that matters to me is that he should be able to say, write and publish whatever he wants freely and without fear of persecution.