Czech Protestant education guru John Amos Comenius (1592 Eastern Moravia – 1670 Amsterdam exile), once asked by John Winthrop to become the president of Harvard.
Six weeks ago, I discussed the case of Ronald Sullivan, a top black American attorney and a former aide of Obama's, who has become a far right heretic according to an unhinged student mob at Harvard because he dared to accept the request of Harvey Weinstein to become one of his attorneys. The mob found it politically incorrect for a lawyer to defend their officially declared villain-in-chief of the hypocritical and unhinged "#MeToo" movement. Harvard's administrators caved to the hysterical mob – one could say that they seemed happy to do so – and fired both Sullivan and his wife as housemasters of the Winthrop House.
Just days ago, we learned that three weeks ago, the Union of Czech Attorneys has sent a letter to Lawrence Bacow, the president of Harvard University, my former employer, and he responded in a certain way. The first signatory among the seven is Dr Tomáš Sokol, arguably the most famous attorney in Czechia (who has been a politician for a while but it may have been a stunt to promote his career as a lawyer).
They published a press release in Czech about the exchange on June 20th. That page links to a scanned letter they sent to Bacow as well as an e-mail response from Bacow.
The Czech lawyers were writing as people who have some direct or indirect experience with these methods from an unquestionably totalitarian regime. They even discussed the attorney of K.H. Frank, a Sudetenland German Nazi who became the protector of Bohemia and Moravia at some point, an analogy that TRF reader Honza has emphasized.
OK, here is the June 4th letter from Prague:
Dear Mr. President Bacow,I would subscribe to almost every word. Well, except for the wrong commas in "those, who" – a typical Bohemianism in English (I erased about twelve such commas before "who", "which", "but", and "if") – and the claim that Resler deceased recently – 1961 isn't really "recently". ;-) Also, I capitalized "Nazi".
We are the Union of defense attorneys from the Czech Republic, lawyers, members of the Czech Bar Association.
Please accept the following words as our response to an event which occurred in your treasured Alma mater, event which shook us up and we’re not afraid to say, due to its substance as well as ease with which it passed by the academic world, even shocked us. As citizens of the homeland of Iohannes Amos Comenius, the teacher of nations, who was asked at the early beginnings of your university’s existence to lead your institution, as citizens of a nation that gave the world Milan Kundera, Václav Havel or Miloš Forman, nationals who were persecuted for their thinking and finally chased out of our country, for us, your story presents a particular torment.
It is a story of a defense attorney, forced to leave an academic post for doing his job, pressured by those who perceived that he chose the wrong defendant. It deeply impacted us. Because our country underwent both Nazi and communistic totalitarianisms, we too well understand why it is said that the path to hell is paved with good intentions.
We are reminded of a story of our recently deceased colleague Kamill Resler, a man who truly had to be the devil’s advocate. A top Nazi criminal notorious in the Czech land named Karl Hermann Frank was by your homeland’s authorities returned to the Czechoslovakian justice and our colleague was assigned as his defense attorney. He proceeded to defend Frank honorably, nobly, despite a definite death penalty outcome.
The prosecutor of the Nuremberg trials visited the proceedings and remarked the defense of our colleague as exemplary. But what followed for Resler? He was condemned for defending a Nazi murderer. Contempt, malicious gossip and distrust became his daily bread and finally led to his “voluntary” retirement from practice.
Particularly despicable criminals united under the communist party adopted this tactic. They managed to condemn not only their own victim publicly but simultaneously their legal counsels. “Trust” had a special role in their words and actions. A magical term which a fanatic crowd or a blind society gave a whole new meaning. Punishment without legal process. Societal rejection for mere fulfillment of fundamental postulates of a state governed by the rule of law.
Here we can’t help but remember Virginia’s Declaration of Rights, and all American subsequent founding documents stemming from it. The right for due process. The right to assistance of counsel.
Furthermore, we have to question if all of those who insisted on publicly declaring distrust to a defense attorney, acting out the demands of his professional position, did so out of personal selfishness, conceit, small-minded fear, all of which outweighed the integral laws of your country and of a state governed by the rule of law in general.
We deeply value your sovereignty and the far-reaching reputation of your university. This act, however, comes as an echo of totalitarian regimes and fanatic mob mentality. It is not an act of reason but an act of evil which once again pats its own back for claiming another noble concept as its own.
In deepest respect,
The presidium of the Union of Defense Attorneys
Unie obhájců České republiky
120 00 Prague 2
Note that Sokol et al. were shocked – and they mentioned the case of Kamill Resler, the attorney of K.H. Frank. Frank was executed, of course, but Resler was "only" pushed to retire voluntarily by gossip. He lived from a pension of CZK 30 per month. In some sense, Sullivan's punishment is worse because he was officially fired from a position by an "authority".
It's cute that the Czech lawyers mention Comenius – I am not sure whether Bacow even knows who the teacher of nations was. What's so cute about it? The Czech pedagogic guru Comenius was asked to become the President of Harvard University at some point. Who asked him? Well... it was John Winthrop after whom Sullivan's "House" is named! (It's not quite clear whether John Winthrop older or younger was the man who tried to hire Comenius.)
The president of Harvard University Lawrence Bacow responded on June 18th and the response makes it clear that he doesn't really get it at all. He's leading the university not because he's comparably useful for the education process as Comenius was; he's there because the new pro-totalitarian movement found him convenient enough:
Dear Members of the Union of Defense Attorneys,Oh, great. So what they killed wasn't the "right to counsel". Instead, they just appreciated the "unique role of the faculty deans". This is exactly like saying that the freedom of speech was never threatened in Stalin's Soviet Union. One must just appreciate the unique role of the people who have the privilege of sharing the country with such an amazing man, Daddy Joseph Stalin. They may say whatever they want but if Daddy Stalin doesn't like it, it's obvious that they have to be sent to a Gulag or worse! :-)
I appreciate having your perspective about this important—and complicated—set of issues, and I want to assure you that the decision was not made lightly. The controversy was never about the right to counsel. Indeed, Dean Rakesh Khurana publicly stated that he believes that all faculty members must be given academic freedom to make decisions that are right for them, and that every individual is entitled to a vigorous defense as a cornerstone of our justice system.
Faculty deans, however, have unique roles in the Harvard residential system, and the controversy had clearly created a very challenging climate within Winthrop House, especially for students. Worries were expressed by staff and students about whether the deans could deal fairly and dispassionately with all the students, no matter their views about the representation, and there were also concerns expressed about time commitments imposed by outside professional activities. In the end, we favored the best interests of our students and made them our top priority.
Ron and Stephanie have made admirable and worthwhile contributions as faculty deans and valued members of our community. They have supported students facing difficult situations throughout the years and made important progress in support of civic engagement and diversity within their House. I am sure they will continue to work hard to keep the interests of students foremost in their thoughts and actions.
All the best,
Lawrence S. Bacow
Clearly, this comment of mine sounds like a variation of a joke about Czechoslovakia and Switzerland.
Bacow completely misunderstands – or perfectly pretends to misunderstand – that in this analogy, the members of the student mob are the Stalin. They are doing things that no one should ever do in a civilized society. One just can't place some perverse wishes of dirty snowflakes above the basic principles of the Western civilization – such as the right of attorneys to defend their clients without existential worries. If Harvard were healthy, these nasty little Stalinist bastards would be spanked vigorously and they couldn't sit on their butts for many weeks. But Harvard prefers to be "nice", it considers such an appropriate spanking "politically incorrect", and it wants to allow this Stalinist scum to become the de facto rulers of the university.
And Bacow seems to be openly endorsing the civilization-crippling pathological desires and deeds of these little Stalinist bastards. They are his actual bosses, just like Stalin was the boss of his gorillas. And instead of the actual Western democratic system, he promotes the Western democratic system constrained by the wishes of Stalin or mobs (communism of the 1950s used to call itself "people's democracy" and it's the words "people's" that annihilates "democracy"; similarly, the contemporary "liberal democracy" isn't "democracy", either). You're on the wrong side of the history, Mr Bacow. Your defense of these bastards is on par with the collaboration with Stalin by becoming one of his gorillas or executioners.