In an open letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a group of MIT professors and other academics expressed their concern over what is implied by the resignation of State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley. Crowley resigned after a visit to MIT in which he made very frank comments about Bradley Manning’s treatment, calling it “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.”
The academics voiced their concern that an official seems to have been forced to resign for speaking his mind, especially in an academic setting such as MIT.
In the context of an open and honest discussion in an academic institution, we were eager to hear Mr. Crowley’s views and willing to give him our opinions and advice. It is this type of openness to dissenting opinions, frankness of assessments, and honesty of discourse that leads to both the advancement of human knowledge and the healthy function of an open, democratic society.
Ultimately, the academics state the possible repercussions of Crowley’s seemingly forced resignation.
If public officials are made to fear expressing their truthful opinions, we have laid the groundwork for ineffective, dishonest, and unresponsive governance.
The tie-in to WikiLeaks itself is hard to ignore; one of the main supporting arguments of the recent release of diplomatic cables was that instead of hindering international conversation, it actually helped improve discourse. The academics’ theory, though they don’t approach their point this way, is that the same is true on a smaller scale. If officials speak their minds, it can create a conversation that enhances discussion and moves policy forward.