View Full Version : Lecturer Backed On Talk About 9/11

06-30-2006, 04:43 PM
Lecturer backed on talk about 9/11
Lawmaker calls for his firing


By Aaron Nathans

A University of Wisconsin-Madison lecturer should have the right to speak in class about his theory that the U.S. government was behind the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, several students and staffers said in spot interviews this morning.

The interviews also revealed a surprising level of skepticism about the government.

"There's a lot that goes on, we never hear things that are covered up," said Susi Irwin, a classified staffer at UW-Madison enjoying a break with her colleagues on the Union Terrace. "As open as this country is, there are a lot of things we don't know."

And one heavily tattooed man, studying and too busy to chat, said in response to the lecturer's theory: "Wouldn't be surprised."

Kevin Barrett, a UW-Madison lecturer scheduled to teach an introductory class on Islam this fall, said on a Milwaukee radio talk show Wednesday that the United States helped bring down the World Trade Center towers to justify the war in Iraq. State Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, said Barrett should be fired.

Provost Patrick Farrell said in a statement on Thursday that the university will review Barrett's plans for the course and his past teaching performance. Barrett, who received his doctorate from UW-Madison in 2004, has a one-semester appointment paying $8,247. This will be his first class on Islam at UW-Madison.

Irwin's colleague, Roberta Mecum, wondered aloud whether the United States is "like the rest of the world," repressing people's right to think.

"What happened to free speech?" Mecum said. "What about the guy who said the world is round instead of flat? He was a heretic, too."

Mecum added that the reaction of President Bush and Vice President Cheney to the news of the attacks showed that they were caught off guard.

A group of first-year occupational therapy graduate students was sitting at a table by the water at the terrace, having just finished an exam.

"I'd rather be shown all sides of it than one side," said Summer Shepstone. "I don't believe most things presented as fact."

"The media tells you everything. What's true, anyways?" said Erin Tauscher.

"The media's controlled by the government," Shepstone said.

"I hope to God it's not true," chimed in Jessica Klatt, referring to Barrett's theory.

"I tend to not even listen to the news," said Katie Knapp.

Inside the Memorial Union, at the cafeteria, Tanya Schulze, a junior, said she trained for the Air Force last year but suffered an injury and received an honorable discharge.

She said Barrett should not be allowed to give the lecture, but he should not be fired.

"That's really tough, with free speech. But I think that's crossing a big boundary," Schulze said. "It's almost like polluting someone's mind."

Wafik Lotfallah, an Egyptian math lecturer, said he strongly disagrees with Barrett's point of view. Lotfallah, who is Christian, said there is a belief among "a fraction" of Muslims that their own people could not be capable of such an awful act.

"I believe that Muslims did it," Lotfallah said. "There's a wide spectrum of Muslim ideology."

"Freedom of speech allows people to talk violently, not act violently. He isn't talking violently, just saying something wrong," Lotfallah added.

Paul Holden of Madison, having breakfast with a newspaper on the terrace, said Nass was just trying to score political points by beating up on the university.

"Steve Nass does not understanding sifting and winnowing," Holden said.

Schulze, who described herself as conservative, said she couldn't understand Barrett's mindset.

"I don't think we'd be sending our troops over and dying for our freedom if we did it ourselves. We're not stupid," Schulze said.

'A bunch of losers': During his appearance Wednesday night on Jessica McBride's show on WTMJ, Barrett disputed most of the widely accepted information about the attacks that brought down the World Trade Center in New York City when airliners were flown into the twin towers.

Among other things, he claimed the group believed to have carried out the attacks was "a bunch of losers who couldn't even fly planes," and that evidence indicates the buildings were brought down by controlled demolitions.

He acknowledged discussing Sept. 11 in teaching classes, but said it was only to give both sides of the issue, not to convert anyone to his point of view.

"I'm trying to teach them how to think, not what to think," he told McBride.

Barrett wrote a widely read opinion column for The Capital Times last month expressing similar views.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. E-mail: anathans@madison.com

06-30-2006, 04:51 PM
"Mecum added that the reaction of President Bush and Vice President Cheney to the news of the attacks showed that they were caught off guard."