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Totalitarianism is on the move: We need to fight back with everything that we have
Woke moral outrage over Dr. Frances Widdowson's guest lecture at the University of Lethbridge
Woke moral outrage is being stoked by the totalitarians over a scheduled February 1, 2023 lecture to be held at the University of Lethbridge by Dr. Frances Widdowson.
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“Totalitarianism is on the move: We need to fight back with everything that we have,” proclaimed Dr. Widdowson in a Facebook post on Friday, in response to the most recent opprobrium brought on by woke social agitators who are displeased with U of L’s decision to host the controversial guest lecturer.
Below is an interview with Daly Unger, of The Meliorist Magazine where Dr. Widdowson explains the situation. This was published to her SoundCloud last night:
A number of authors have written in these pages about what readers will know as Situation Widdowson. A situation discussed in my recent essay The Kafkaesque “Trial” Of Professor Frances Widdowson, where I compare Mount Royal University (where Dr. Widdowson formerly taught as a tenured professor) administrators, with the surreal and “Kafkaesque” legal bureaucracy in the Franz Kafka novel, the Trial. Also discussed in that piece is the “academic mobbing” and “workplace harassment” that Dr. Widdowson had been subjected to for years by the woke radicals at Mount Royal University.
In the Mobbing of Frances Widdowson, ‘workplace mobbing’ researcher Kenneth Westhues discusses Dr. Widdowson’s encounters with the woke at MRU and includes a letter he wrote in January of 2022, shortly after Dr. Widdowson’s firing, to MRU President and Interim Provost, Tim Rahilly:
“Media across the country are reporting the news of your dismissal of Professor Frances Widdowson from MRU.
This news calls to mind the lesson Nathaniel Hawthorne drew in House of Seven Gables from the burning of a witch, that ‘the influential classes, and those who take upon themselves to be leaders of the people, are fully liable to all the passionate error that has ever characterized the maddest mob’.”
In recent weeks, since the beginning of Dr. Widdowson’s arbitration (concerning her firing from MRU), we have been publishing short pieces, written by Dr. Widdowson, related to these matters. In Reaping Postmodernism’s Violent Whirlwind, she discusses both her own case, and that of Denis Rancourt - who was terminated from his tenured professorship in physics at the University of Ottawa:
“It was, according to ‘workplace mobbing’ researcher Kenneth Westhues, a case in which the administration ‘coalesced in the view that Rancourt, despite his stellar research record and the respect given him by very many students, is an utterly unworthy and abhorrent man, fit only for expulsion from respectable academic company’.”
Later in that same piece, when discussing her own scenario as a target in what essentially was a workplace mobbing led by the activist-academics and university administrators at MRU, Dr. Widdowson writes about being ambushed by MRU administrators on the night of her firing, and the aftermath :
“At the time, I was very shaken by what transpired and would often have flashbacks of that evening. After a number of months, however, I was able to put the sequence of events in context. Although it is still shocking, one should not be surprised that this was the response to the years of vilification that the university condoned.”
A new mob emerges in response to the upcoming University of Lethbridge guest lecture by Dr. Widdowson
Over the weekend, hundreds of people signed two different digital petitions, one created by “Concerned Students” at Lethbridge University on Change.org seeking to cancel Dr. Widdowson’s lecture. After calling her a “residential school denialist,” “Anti BLM,” and a “Trans Rights Critic,” the petition goes way off the typical woke rails:
“Although this was not organized by the University itself, the University should be focused on Truth and Reconciliation. The reality is, that racist and harmful ideologies are coming on campus; silence is complicity. This is an act of violence upon its BIPOC, LGBTQIA2S+, and especially Indigenous students by allowing space for these ideologies to traumatize students in a space that is supposed to be safe and educating.”
The other petition, also on change.org, was put together by U of L Indigenous Student Representative Nathan Crow. Below is a particularly embarrassing passage from Crow’s petition that illustrates the fragility and naivety of the moral do-gooders involved. Is anyone convinced by his histrionic pearl clutching? :
The atrocities that occurred within the Indian Residential School system are 100% accurate and true, and I strongly feel that Frances Widdowson’s attendance on our campus devalues the opinions and shared histories of the many survivors who attended this colonial system. This issue not only affects the many survivors that attended the IRS, but it also affects the children and grandchildren of these survivors who are dealing with the impacts of intergenerational trauma, like myself and many other students who attend our university.
On Friday, academic and social agitator, Kisha Supernant, Department of Anthropology, University of Alberta, tweeted an online banner calling students to protest Dr. Widdowson’s lecture. In the tweet, Supernant pontificates - “Denialists will claim they have a right to speak, but no one is obligated to listen.” That is true, but I wonder if the “peaceful protest” they have planned will interfere with the rights of others who want to hear Dr. Widdowson Speak?
On Thursday, University of Lethbridge President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Mike Mahon, with the expected tone of moral outrage, issued the official virtue signals right on cue, in his Statement from the President — Controversial Guest Speaker Appearance. From that statement:
“The University of Lethbridge has become aware of a guest speaker, invited by one of our faculty members, whose views are in conflict with a number of the values held by the University — including the University’s stated commitment to the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. We strongly disagree with assertions that seek to minimize the significant and detrimental impact of Canada’s residential school system. I have heard from many students, faculty and staff who have expressed their disappointment that this event is taking place. It is encouraging that a concurrent evidence-based counter-lecture has also been organized, and that the vast majority of our community finds these views abhorrent.
The U of L Statement on Free Expression states that its “mandate affirms its commitment to protect free inquiry and scholarship, facilitate access to scholarly resources, and support artistic expression and free and open scholarly discussion of issues.”
I suppose it is a good thing that, even though the message is grotesque in its false virtue and moral grandstanding, it does seem to uphold Dr. Widdowson’s free speech. Mahon goes so far as to write - “Members of the University community have the right to criticize and question views expressed on campus, but they may not obstruct or interfere with others’ freedom of expression. Debate or deliberation on campus may not be suppressed because the ideas put forward are thought by some, or even most, to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or misguided.”
Even still, the full statement made by Mahon included some apparent contradictions which prompted Dr. Widdowson to ask on her public Facebook profile:
“Which is it University of Lethbridge: ‘the University does not endorse in any way, the opinions and views of any speaker, whether from ULethbridge or the external community’ or ‘the University strongly believes the viewpoints of this guest speaker are not consistent with the values of our institution’ …?”
That is a good question. I wonder if a controversial speaker on the topic of “Minor Attracted Persons” - or one who advocates for dangerous and irreversible surgeries on children based on what elites in gender studies departments believe - would be described as having viewpoints “not consistent with the values of our institution” ?
Mahon’s statement goes on to say:
“The Department of Indigenous Studies vehemently condemns the anti-Indigenous rhetoric routinely disseminated by former MRU professor Frances Widdowson and deplores the fact that she is being given a platform to legitimize that discourse on our campus.”
In an analysis of Mahon’s statement on the Real Indigenous Newsletter, anthropologist Hymie Rubenstein pointed out that “anti-Indigenous rhetoric is anything that remotely challenges the rhetorically fallacious mainstream narrative.”
An Associate Professor of Women & Gender Studies, Caroline Hodes, clearly compelled by spiteful totalitarian inclinations, was unkind and naïve enough to email the lectures organizer, Dr. Viminitz, and other faculty members, to accuse him and Dr. Widdowson of hate speech and to declare the following falsehoods:
"Residential school denial is genocide denial and this is a violation of Indigenous rights. This is not a form of speech protected by either the Alberta Human Rights Act or academic freedom as understood by our collective agreement or our Harassment and Discrimination Policy. Both Drs. Widdowson and Viminitz are engaging in forms of hate speech"
In a social media exchange with Daniel Page - a professor who was recently pushed out of his position at The University of Regina by administration, months after he criticized his university administration's openly activist stance in creating non-academic scholarships related to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion - had the following to say about Caroline Hodes’ comments:
“Hodes’ message reads more like confession through projection, amounting to something akin to: ‘No opinions allowed except for mine [my message] and for those that are in my camp that deem what is acceptable, and it isn't academic freedom because it violates my opinion that disallows discussing ideas that upset me.’ I don't know if Hodes understands, but Hodes is holding an unprincipled view that contradicts the need for academic freedom as a principle at universities. This is before we even get to the smearing this letter gets into, which is indeed smearing you (Dr. Widdowson) and others.”
In the same discussion, opinion writer Michael Melanson made the comment:
“If the IRS isn't proven as a genocide, can it actually be denied as a genocide? For sure, there's lots of people who want to characterize the IRS as a genocide but that isn't proof that the IRS was one. The reality is that there is no demonstrable genocidal intent in educating a people because educating a people presupposes their continued existence. The injustice of false accusation ought to trouble people more.”
Indeed, woke totalitarians and their false accusations seem not at all concerned with the truth. Their goal is in seizing complete control over the parameters of acceptable university discourse, which effectively makes the university a totalitarian producer of radical activists and a relentless generator of woke ideology.
Dr. Widdowson has written a letter, regarding the defamatory statements Made by Dr. Caroline Hodes, to president Mahon. Last night she posted it to her Facebook profile:
·January 29, 2023
Dear President Mahon:
The reason for this email is that I would like to express my concerns about some defamatory statements made by Dr. Caroline Hodes. an Associate Professor of Women & Gender Studies at the University of Lethbridge. Dr. Hodes' remarks were made in the context of a talk that I have been invited to give at the University of Lethbridge on February 1. 2023 about (ironically) "How 'Woke-ism' Threatens Academic Freedom. I was invited to give this lecture by Dr. Paul Viminitz, an Associate Professor in the Philosophy Department. Dr. Viminitz also has asked me to speak on indigenous "ways of knowing" at two of his philosophy classes.
In her email to several University of Lethbridge faculty members, Dr. Hodes asserts that I was fired because of my "racism, transphobia and bigotry" and am "known to distort the facts, deny genocide and engage in campaigns of anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism". She also states that Residential school denial is genocide denial and this is a violation of Indigenous rights", and that *Both Drs. Widdowson and Viminitz are engaging in forms of hate speech". Finally. Dr. Hodes expresses a "hope that this event is cancelled and that Dr. Viminitz and the department of philosophy are held accountable”. She even suggests that "appropriate disciplinary action" should accompany the cancelling of the event.
Although, as a free speech advocate, I would not want anyone to be punished for expressing their opinions, I think that Dr. Hodes has an obligation to substantiate her very serious allegations. What is the "transphobia and bigotry" and "anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism" that I have engaged in? How have I participated in "Residential school denial* and why is this "a violation of Indigenous rights™? What is the "hate speech" disseminated by Dr. Viminitz and me, and why should the "department of philosophy" be "held accountable" for the event that is being held?
In his overview of a number of my articles and videos. Dr. Victor Rodch. the Chair of the University of Lethbridge's Philosophy Department, maintains that he has "not seen a single piece of hard evidence that Dr. Widdowson is a racist". He also notes that he has not seen me deny the harm done by the residential schools. He concludes by asserting that Dr. Hodes makes "very serious allegations", and asks that she provide "solid evidence of some of this" to help people understand the issues involved.
I wholeheartedly agree with Dr Rodvch. and implore Dr Hodes to explain why she thinks that my ideas should not be matters of discussion at an academic institution. What Dr Hodes is currently engaged in is anti-intellectual name calling, and this irresponsible conduct does not set a good example for students. Dr. Hodes has an obligation to defend her damaging allegations. It is only through principled engagement that we can pursue the truth and try to create a better world for everyone.
Sincerely, Frances Widdowson
Pushing back against these woke totalitarians is essential. I thank Frances Widdowson and all her supporters for stepping up to this challenge and fighting for the crucially important principles of free speech and academic freedom. We must resist!
Thanks for reading. For more on the illiberal cancellations of Canadian educators, read Intimidation Masquerading As Virtue Is Chilling Free Speech by Chanel Pfahl
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Woke Watch Canada Newsletter is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.