Paul Krugman, professors seek top economist's removal from influential job for criticizing Black Lives Matter

UPDATE, 6/22/20: UHLIG HAS BEEN REINSTATED BY THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO TO HIS JOURNAL POSITION; ACCUSATION OF DISCRIMINATORY CONDUCT WAS INSUFFICIENTLY SUBSTANTIATED

UPDATE, 6/16/20: UHLIG HAS BEEN SUSPENDED BY THE JOURNAL AND FIRED BY THE CHICAGO FED; TOP STANFORD ECONOMIST COMES OUT IN UHLIG'S DEFENSE

Original story below:

University of Michigan professor Justin Wolfers and dozens of other academics are leading a massive effort to have a senior faculty member at the University of Chicago removed from his position at the world's preeminent economics journal -- all because he criticized Black Lives Matter's effort to defund police departments, saying proponents of that plan were akin to "flat-earthers and creationists."

The attack on a leading academic at the University of Chicago, traditionally a bastion of free speech and no-nonsense conservative economic theory, comes as swarms of left-wing activists have successfully secured numerous firings across the country for viewpoints they deem politically unacceptable.

In extraordinary cases just this week, an LA Galaxy soccer player was fired because of his wife's posts on Black Lives Matter; a UCLA lecturer was suspended for pointedly refusing to cancel his exam for black students; a progressive data scientist was fired for posting research from a black scholar; and a Cornell Law School faculty member was threatened with termination for criticizing Black Lives Matter. (Cornell's dean later issued a defense of academic freedom while condemning the faculty member's remarks.) The Federalist has compiled a slew of other examples.

In their petition addressed to the management of the Journal of Political Economy at the University of Chicago, Wolfers and other professors accuse senior editor Harald Uhlig of "trivializing the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement" and "hurting and marginalizing people of color and their allies in the economics profession." Black Lives Matter advocates for a "collective ownership" economic model, reparations, and the "immediate release" of everyone convicted of a drug offense, in addition to defunding police forces and other left-wing agenda items.

The petition goes on to falsely accuse Uhlig, the Bruce Allen and Barbara Ritzenthaler Professor in Economics at the University of Chicago, of "drawing parallels between the BLM movement and the Ku Klux Klan." Uhlig, in fact, was explicitly using a common form of argument known as "reductio ad absurdum."

The New York Times' Paul Krugman, an anti-Trump columnist who has floated conspiracy theories about employment numbers and famously declared that the Internet would prove less important than fax machines, joined in on the attack, writing: "Editor of the Journal of Political Economy, a powerful gatekeeper in the profession. And yet another privileged white man who evidently can't control his urge to belittle the concerns of those less fortunate."

Wolfers, who kickstarted the petition alongside Michigan State University professor Scott Imberman, further criticized Uhlig for "disagreeing with the actions of [ex-NFL star Colin] Kaepernick." Liberal Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg also opposed Kaepernick's kneeling during the national anthem, but that position has now become retroactively unacceptable in progressive circles. Ginsburg specifically said Kaepernick's kneeling was both "dumb" and "disrespectful."

Wolfers did not respond when asked by Fox News whether he would seek Ginsburg's ouster from the Supreme Court.

Paul Krugman, who predicted the Internet would never catch on, called for a leading professor to step down for criticizing Black Lives Matter.

Paul Krugman, who predicted the Internet would never catch on, called for a leading professor to step down for criticizing Black Lives Matter. (REUTERS/Franck Robichon)

According to his biography page at the University of Michigan, Wolfers serves as a member of the ostensibly nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office Panel of Economic Advisers. 

"So revealing how eagerly these fanatics support purging and firing wrong thinkers," wrote commentator Andrew Sullivan, responding to one of the faculty members calling for Uhlig to step down. "It’s their first instinct: punish. They disgust me."

Christopher Brunet, an economist and freelance coder, told Fox News: "There are a million screeching Berkeley PhDs on Twitter, but the silent majority of economics professors aren't on Twitter -- they are buttoned up, and they overwhelmingly support Harald and freedom of speech."

After this article was published, Kenneth Judd, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and an economics expert, also came out in support of Uhlig's right to free speech.

"As some people know, I am not a fan of Harald Uhlig," Judd began. "We have had many disagreements, some quite bitter, about his performance as a journal editor. I also disagree strongly with his tweets. However, I am also a strong supporter of freedom of speech, both academic and non-academic. He got an earful last week for his tweet. The only reason I did not give him crap is that I would just be piling on."

Protesters throw a statue of slave trader Edward Colston into the Bristol harbour, during a Black Lives Matter protest rally, in Bristol, England, Sunday June 7, 2020, in response to the recent killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, USA, that has led to protests in many countries and across the US. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)

Protesters throw a statue of slave trader Edward Colston into the Bristol harbour, during a Black Lives Matter protest rally, in Bristol, England, Sunday June 7, 2020, in response to the recent killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, USA, that has led to protests in many countries and across the US. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)

Judd continued: "While I may not like his editorial practices, I have never heard anything indicating any racial prejudice on his part. Endorsing Trump would be far more offensive since that would put a stamp of approval on so many offensive statements, many far more offensive than anything Uhlig has said. Would people argue that he should lose his positions if he endorsed Trump? If his tweets did result in some loss of professional status, how does that improve things in any substantive way? It would not change any attitudes nor anything in economics. It would just cause others to say nothing.

"My attitude is let people say stupid things, use your freedom of speech to slap them down when they do, but then get on with the business of real reform," Judd concluded.

David Paton, an economics professor at Nottingham University Business School, added: "Deeply disappointing to see respected economists joining in the 'cancel culture' and trying to get @haralduhlig  removed from his editorial position at JPE. Let's hope they don't succeed."

"Here is the key point," George Mason University economist Robin Hanson wrote. "If you don't agree with @JustinWolfers's politics, he has no confidence in you as a social scientist. And he thinks enough other social scientists agree with him to push such folks out of the club."

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The drama began when Uhlig wrote on Twitter Monday night: "Too bad, but #blacklivesmatter  per its core organization @Blklivesmatter  just torpedoed itself, with its full-fledged support of #defundthepolice."

Uhlig continued: "Suuuure. They knew this is non-starter, and tried a sensible Orwell 1984 of saying oh, it just means funding schools (who isn't in favor of that?!?).But no, the so-called 'activists' did not want that. Back to truly 'defunding' thus, according to their website. Sigh. #GeorgeFloyd and his family really didn't deserve being taken advantage of by flat-earthers and creationists. Oh well. Time for sensible adults to enter back into the room and have serious, earnest, respectful conversations about it all: e.g. policy reform proposals by @TheDemocrat  and national healing."

Uhlig's posts came as the movement to defund the police gained traction this week, even though polls show Americans overwhelmingly disapprove of the idea. On Monday, Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender told CNN that people worried about having no one to call during a home invasion were speaking from a "place of privilege." Those comments drew widespread backlash.

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By way of solutions, Uhlig wrote that police need better training.

"Look: I understand, that some out there still wish to go and protest and say #defundpolice and all kinds of stuff, while you are still young and responsibility does not matter," he said. "Enjoy! Express yourself! Just don't break anything, ok? And be back by 8 pm."

Separately, in 2017, Uhlig wrote a blog post that asked: "Would you defend football players waving the confederate flag and dressing in Ku Klux Klan garb during the playing of the national anthem?"

The post did not draw an equivalency between Black Lives Matter protesters and the KKK; instead, Uhlig took pains to mention that he was arguing only that President Trump, by criticizing players who kneel during the national anthem, was not impinging on constitutional rights.

"Don’t get me wrong," Uhlig wrote in the post, apparently to no avail. "Of course, these football players have the right to express their views about the treatment of blacks by the police, they have the right to protest President Trump and they have the right to kneel during the national anthem. Club owners have the right to fire them because of it, by the way: so Trump actually did not attack the constitutional rights of football players, but what an annoying and pesky detail, right?"

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"There are a million screeching Berkeley PhDs on Twitter, but the silent majority of economics professors aren't on Twitter  ... [T]hey overwhelmingly support Harald and freedom of speech."

— Economist Christopher Brunet

On Tuesday, Uhlig's comments were deemed problematic -- and worse.

"Racists shouldn't be allowed to gatekeep our profession," charged University of Victoria economist Rob Gillezeau. (Even Wolfers had stopped short of calling Uhlig a racist.)

Amid outcry from faculty members at left-leaning institutions, Uhlig offered something of an apology -- but it wasn't good enough for Wolfers, who called it "a-- covering."

"I'm no fan of twitter pile-ons, or call-out culture," Wolfers said, despite available evidence. "A single tweet won't get me upset. But reading through @haralduhlig 's public writing reveals a pattern that's a bit too revealing. I don’t think it’s just or fair that Uhlig, as an editor at the @JPolEcon  is an important gatekeeper for economists trying to make their mark. I don’t think the profession’s resolve to look more deeply into racial justice will get a fair hearing under his editorship."

Jennifer Doleac, an economics professor at Texas A&M University, gleefully tweeted that she hopes Uhlig won't have his job for "much longer."

Doleac didn't respond to a request for comment concerning whether she typically threatens students and colleagues with professional consequences for disagreeing with her. However, she tweeted: "I just got an email from Fox News asking why I am trying to hurt this man's career. Folks, I don't have the power to fire him. I do hope he resigns, because he has lost my confidence to be an objective gatekeeper of high-quality research at one of our discipline's top journals."

The petition to secure Ulrig's removal is slated to be delivered to the journal's management on Wednesday.

Unrestrained outrage in the midst of the in-custody death of George Floyd was apparent in other spheres late Tuesday, as the long-running show "Cops" was abruptly canceled, and HBO Max announced it had pulled the Oscar-winning Civil War epic "Gone With the Wind."

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The Washington Monument and the White House are visible behind the words Black Lives Matter sign that has been painted in bright yellow letters on the 16th Street by city workers and activists, Friday, June 5, 2020, in Washington. (Khalid Naji-Allah/Executive Office of the Mayor via AP)

The Washington Monument and the White House are visible behind the words Black Lives Matter sign that has been painted in bright yellow letters on the 16th Street by city workers and activists, Friday, June 5, 2020, in Washington. (Khalid Naji-Allah/Executive Office of the Mayor via AP)

ScreenRant and The Wall Street Journal were the first to report that the newly-launched streaming service yanked the 1939 film, which takes place at an Atlanta plantation. Critics in the modern era have criticized "Gone With the Wind" for its depiction of black people.

The film won eight Oscars including Best Picture and made history when Hattie McDaniel became the first black American to win an Oscar for her performance.

"As @JerryDunleavy noted, Hattie McDaniel was the first African American to win an Academy Award for her performance in Gone With the Wind," observed commentator Stephen Miller. "The woke race mafia is **actually** erasing social progress, right in front of us."

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The newsroom at the Times, where Krugman works, also staged an internal revolt because the opinion section published an op-ed by a sitting Republican senator calling for the use of troops to quell widespread rioting in some cities.

The paper initially stood by the opinion piece, but amid a wave of Twitter complaints from the newsroom claiming that the op-ed was literally "violence," opinion editor James Bennet resigned and top brass apologized.

"The notion that only one viewpoint is acceptable, and no contrary words should be published, even on an opinion page, gets at the heart of why journalism has lost so much credibility," wrote Howard Kurtz, the host of Fox News' "MediaBuzz."