More on Silencing Sommers

January 2002

The reaction to " Silencing Sommers," my last piece for NRO, has been overwhelming. This story of Christina Hoff Sommers, a nationally respected critic of feminist excess, being silenced, grossly insulted, and effectively ejected from a government conference at which she had been invited to speak, has been posted and reposted - with outraged commentary - all over the web. The National Association of Scholars has issued a statement condemning the treatment of Sommers, and many people are asking what can be done to redress this wrong. This incident seems to have crystallized the widespread feeling that both free speech and academic standards have been sacrificed to multiculturalist and feminist orthodoxies, not only in academia, but in all of our ruling institutions.

The uproar over the silencing of Christina Hoff Sommers has been such that Charles G. Curie, the Bush administration's newly appointed administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in the Department of Health and Human Services, has sent a letter to National Review Online formally responding to the controversy. That letter contains much that deserves praise. Yet Curie's response to the Sommers incident raises warning flags as well.

To his great credit, Charles Curie says that he was appalled to learn what happened to Christina Hoff Sommers, and forthrightly acknowledges that she was both "censored" and "silenced" by government officials. Curie also lets it be known that he has personally apologized to Sommers for the behavior of his agency. For all of this, Curie deserves praise. It's a rare day indeed when a victim of "political correctness," however egregious, receives a formal public apology and an admission of guilt. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Curie is a brand-new Bush appointee, now forced to deal with the misbehavior of the Clinton-appointed officials who have been running his agency.

But Curie's letter also raises the disturbing prospect that those who have perpetrated this outrage will get away with a mere slap on the wrist, and that the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP), (the division of SAMHSA whose shoddy programs Sommers was criticizing - and whose managers silenced her), will continue to waste literally hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on silly, unproven - and even counterproductive - ideologically driven programs.