By: Mark Glennon*
If you are among the two-thirds of Americans opposing calls by Black Lives Matter to defund the police, think twice about saying so in public.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago is the latest example of what you might face. On Friday it cut ties with a prominent University of Chicago economics professor, Harald Uhlig, who was a scholar at the bank, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. The Chicago Fed said it terminated Mr. Uhlig’s contract effective that day.
What was Uhlig’s sin?
A series of tweets criticizing Black Lives Matter’s call to defund police departments.
BLM had “just torpedoed itself, with its full-fledged support of #defundthepolice,” Uhlig tweeted. “Time for sensible adults to enter back into the room and have serious, earnest, respectful conversations about it all… We need more police, we need to pay them more, we need to train them better,” he wrote. The full text of the tweets is linked here.
If those comments seem harmless, you are not alone. Beyond the two-thirds of Americans who tell pollsters they oppose calls for defunding, you have to wonder how many more are afraid to answer polls honestly.
Uhlig also knocked those who tried to redefine what defunding means by claiming “it just means funding schools (who isn’t in favor of that?!?).” He was absolutely right to do that. We wrote just this week why calls to defund mean just that, which was affirmed by a New York Times column Friday headlined, “Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police.”
The Chicago Fed wasn’t the first to go after Uhlig for his tweets. Earlier reactions were covered by both the Wall Street Journal and Business Insider, reactions the National Review described as a mob attack on academic freedom.
Over the past few years we learned to expect, even to shrug off, charges of racism or insensitivity over even the most sensible or innocuous comments.
What’s new just in the past month, however, is far more frightening.
It’s the surrender by so many companies and institutions to intimidation by the most radical voices, such as those who would defund the police. Contributions to Black Lives Matter are pouring in from corporate America and dissenting voices are being muzzled and punished. The Federal Reserve Bank properly guards its independence, and its local banks pride themselves on independence even from one another. But for the Chicago Fed, that independence apparently ends when the mob shows up.
These are terrifying times for reasons far beyond law and order. This is about freedom of expression and America itself.
*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.