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Serbian Government's Planned Demand for Federal Investigation of Supposedly Anti-Serb "Racist Remarks":

I blogged over the last several days about the planned philosophy lecture at Kent State — the 2007 Veroni Memorial Lecture in Philosophy and the Humanities, to be delivered by Peter French, Lincoln Chair in Ethics, and Director, Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics at Arizona State University — which was titled On Being Morally Challenged by Collective Memories, and had the following blurb:

During the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, Serbian men described themselves as compelled to rape and murder Kosovar women and children. This felt necessity was provoked and sustained by collective memories nurtured in Serbs for seven centuries. The basic question I hope to answer is whether group members caught in the throes of collective memories should be held responsible for their actions when they "can do no other."

Here's a copy of a fax from the Serbian consulate that was sent before the lecture was called off:

CONSULATE GENERAL OF THE REPUBLIC OF SERBIA
201 E. Ohio Street, Suite 200, Chicago, IL. 60611
Tel: 312/670-6707; Fax: 312/670-6787
www.scgchicago.org

Friday, March 02, 2007

David W. Odell-Scott, Chair Philosophy Department
Kent State University
P.O. Box 5190
Kent, OH 44242-0001

VIA FACSIMILE: 330-672-4867

Dear Professor Scott;

It has come to our attention that the Philosophy Department at Kent State University is sponsoring a lecture "On Being Morally Challenged by Collective Memories" to be held on March 7, 2007 featuring Peter French as the speaker.

After reviewing the promotional materials concerning Mr. French's speech, we are deeply disturbed and shocked. We view these remarks as racist and hateful, and feel compelled to react. My Consulate is responsible to inform the Serbian Government of such anti-Serbian rhetoric, as well as US authorities about possible legal violations.

If this lecture is allowed to proceed, we will demand from the Office of the US Attorney in Cleveland an investigation about racist remarks and demand an explanation from the State of Ohio, regarding State sponsored hate speech. We are very sorry that no one at your School recognized this shameful conduct and did not react to prevent its announcement.

Respectfully,

Desko Nikitovic
Consul General
Cc: Kent State President Lester A. Leftonfax

CONSULATE GENERAL OF THE REPUBLIC OF SERBIA
201 E. Ohio Street, Suite 200, Chicago, IL. 60611
Tel: 312/670-6707; Fax: 312/670-6787

Fortunately, in America the U.S. Attorney does not investigate allegedly racist remarks by scholars (plus, as I noted before, the allegations were based on some very thin evidence). Let's hope it stays that way, and European norms of speech restriction — whether from Serbia, France, England, or elsewhere — do not make their way to the U.S.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Serbian Government's Planned Demand for Federal Investigation of Supposedly Anti-Serb "Racist Remarks":
  2. Cancellation of the Lecture That Was Objected to by Some Serbian-Americans:
  3. Brewing Academic Controversy:
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